I don't know anything. Maybe if you've read a few of the posts on this blog, you would suspect I felt the exact opposite, but that's the thing about writing blogs... you have to pretend you know what the hell you're talking about. But I don't. Not at all. I know nothing. About anything. And the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.
But when you think you know something (before you're proven so, so wrong about that), there's this glorious time when you don't know what you don't know. As long as you're ignorant of the depth of your ignorance, you can blissfully go along, thinking you have a clue. This generally immediately precedes a humbling event that sets you straight again. And the cycle continues.
Recently, an acquaintance of mine reached out to me and asked if I'd be willing to meet up with her and talk to her about one of my favorite topics: writing and publishing. After my initial excitement at a) having someone local to gab with about writing and b) catching up with an old friend, the reality of the situation sank in. Uh... this person was going to expect me to know what the heck I'm talking about.
And shouldn't I? After all, I've published thirteen books, and I have two more coming out this year (that's the plan, anyway). Only an idiot wouldn't have the hang of it by now, right? It's a process. You go step-by-step through it until you reach the end. Then you start over again. What could be hard about describing that and sharing what I know?
It went fine, of course. Better than fine. It's always wonderful to talk to someone who "gets" the crazy things you say, like, "When I'm stuck on a scene, I just let the characters do whatever they want to do and see how that works out." It was also nice for a night to act like I've got this whole writing career thing under control. By the end of the evening, I almost believed it! Ha!
I did make sure she realized, though, that everything I was saying was specific to me. Most days. And even then, some days, all bets are off. This prevaricating drove home the fact that like one of my favorite literary characters, I really know nothing.
And I'm beginning to be okay with that.
At first, it was crippling. How am I supposed to do the thing that I want to do if I know nothing about how to do it? I must learn all the things! Remember cramming for high school or college exams? My first couple of years of self-publishing felt like that. Every day. And it was exhausting and overwhelming. So now that I'm a grizzled veteran (ha!), I've accepted that I'll never know it all, nor do I want to. Some of it doesn't apply to me, for one thing. And even the things that I should know and be doing that I don't currently do...? I'm not there yet. And that's okay.
My friend had that wild-eyed, panicked, "How am I ever going to remember all of this?" look about her. She took notes. As fun as it was to talk about everything, I started to get the urge to say condescending things like, "Don't worry about that so much now," or "All in due time..." Ugh. Then, when it was clear she was entering the "information overload" stage, I was tempted to gloss over or omit things to spare her further distress. I didn't want to be the one to make her experience that hopelessness you feel when facing what seems like an impossible task. "Just focus on the writing. Focus on the writing."
But sometimes we go through phases when the writing isn't there. There's nothing to focus on, because the muse has abandoned us. That's when it comes in handy to focus on the other parts of the process. But I'm not good at that part. I'm certainly not qualified to tell someone else what to do in those instances other than, "Keep showing up."
On the surface, it sounds pretty lame, but the only thing I do know is that nothing can happen if you're not even there to make it happen. So you show up and hope for the best. And sometimes... sometimes... amazing things happen.
I guess I know something, after all.