Five Minutes and Counting

Yeah, so you know that novel i was saying i wouldn’t be able to talk about it for a while? Turns out, i can talk about it.

The book is/was called Black Damask, and i got the call on from Wizards editor Courtney Marabetta last week that said it had been canceled. More accurately, it’s not that they’re canceling my book. It’s that the entire line of Ravenloft books of which my novel was a part was canceled last week, which just happened to be the week after i’d actually finished writing the book and was feeling pretty damn good about it.

(I need to get some script notes on my life. All these ironic reversals are starting to flatline my protagonist arc.)

Here’s a secret, though.

As you progress as a creative person, this kind of shit pisses you off for less time each and every time it happens. Because it does happen, and it will happen, and the first time it happens (a story rejected, a script turned down for development, a promise broken by agent, manager, producer, or publisher), your mind, heart, and spirit will be toast for a month. It’s an excruciating process, wherein all the self-doubt and fear about the worth of you and your work that have plagued you since the first time you picked up a pen, a camcorder, a guitar, or whatever your chosen weapon — all of it sucker-punches you, steals your lunch money, pulls your pants down in class, makes fun of your haircut, and bangs your girl/boyfriend while you watch, over and over again. One month.

The second time it happens, you expect it to feel easier. However, it doesn’t. Same sucker-punch, your lunch money and your comic collection are stolen this time, and your girl/boyfriend is talking loudly about all the things your self-doubt is doing to her/him that you could never manage.

I suspect that this second bout of getting screwed over is the one thing that destroys more creative people than anything else. Because in being forced to consider the future as an endless process of taking this same torturous beating time after time after time, they simply pack it in.

Here’s the thing though. If you pay really close attention, even though the feeling is the same, you’ll notice that the scouring of your psyche clears up in only about two weeks this second time around.

It happens again, and again. You’re back to normal in a week. Then three days. A day. A half-day.

Eventually, you get to a point where any of this shit — dealing with an asshole producer, rejection by an agent, a bad review, someone declining to fund your script or buy your book even as they drop money on shit that’s not as good as what you do — will bother you for a total of five minutes.

You’ll feel yourself sink into the white-hot sauna of rage and despair that all creative people keep prepared for this sort of thing. And you’ll sit there for five minutes. And then you’ll be done. Because as a creative person — as, dare i say it, an artist — you realize that every minute you spend pissed off and hurt by the shit that happens to you because of your pursuit of your art is taking you away from your art.

You never stop feeling it, but at some point, you learn that it doesn’t matter.

For myself, when my five minutes were up this time out, i started jotting down a couple of pages of notes detailing how i can move the multiple-world/planar story of Black Damask from the Ravenloft milieu to the unified world of the Endlands, a shared fictional world of my own devising that i should probably talk more about here at some point.

I threw down ideas. I found connections between Black Damask in its present form and a dozen different aspects of its new fictional world that i never would have otherwise thought about. I discovered connections between this novel and another novel i’ve been outlining for longer than i care to admit, and which i’m now further inspired to start. In reaction to these five minutes of dread, horror, and unbridled rage that are the lot of every creative person’s life, i immersed myself in the free-flowing energy of my own creativity, and i am stronger now than i was before.

And at the end of the day, that’s what keeps you going. Start the clock.



Working for myself/at home, i find that i too quickly lose the distinction of what "work" actually means, as opposed to "life". Sometimes that's in a bad way, as when deadlines keep me from doing things that i know are more important. Sometimes, it's in a good way, as being able to balance the need to let things in and let them happen and be processed with the usefulness of being able to let the work and the writing distract me.

It just feels a little easier being able to compartmentalize things so that it's not "I need to be about work for the next ten hours, then i'll grieve", but to be able to spend the time doing what's most productive or comforting. The danger, of course, is in getting too deeply into not processing it, but i don't think that's too much of a risk for someone as insanely introspective as i've turned out to be.