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To all my followers who are surely flabbergasted that a notification has popped up in their box regarding the long-forgotten Tayman: you probably expect some questions to be answered. Why hasn't he made a peep since he blogged about Bronycon last year? Is he still alive? Is he still writing? Does he actually live in a remote North Dakotan cave and access the internet using a rusty crank generator?
(To the last query, I say no, silly. Everyone knows that North Dakota is a fantasy conjured to convince people that good ole' small town America still exists).
Truth be told, this post has been in the shop for a long time running. The primary reasons why it's only just going up directly tie into the reasons why I haven't published anything within the past two years.
Self-loathing. Self-esteem issues. Low self-confidence. Brutal stress that put me in a chokehold whenever I so much as considered writing (which isn't a healthy way of functioning, truth be told). None of these issues saw the light of day when I first started writing fanfic in the origins of 2012, when I was a starry-eyed author with dreams of grandeur and legacy, a young lad looking to make his mark on the world. During my initial foray, I had wild ideas, self-esteem bordering on arrogance, and a fervent drive to create.
(This is going to be a lengthy tale of exposition, as a heads up. You've been warned. Hell, I should've hit the emergency alarm a few paragraphs up).
Now that two years have passed since my last published story, Hoofin' It, it's obvious to those astute observers that there's been a fundamental shift in my worldviews - one bad enough to pull the plug on my creative endeavors for the past twenty four months. So, what happened?
Long story short: A met a few precious friends and mentors in a time of great personal despair, launching a long, winding journey of introspection and self-development. While one of these gentlemen isn't on fimfiction, the other, my dear friend and sagely teacher Sunchaser, responded to my woes in my time of need and took me under his tutelage. Beyond being Buddhist monk levels of enlightened, a chill and well-adjusted dude, and a savant of pop culture and potpourri knowledge, he's one of the best, most under-appreciated writers here on fimfiction. You may have seen a couple of his stories pop up in the featured box, but if you've never heard of him or checked out his work, what are you waiting for?
I met Sunchaser shortly after my Post-Hoofin' It sob story of a blog post, where we immediately sparked an intimate and intellectual relationship on Skype after I messaged him on fimfiction. After Hoofin' It, I realized there was something wrong with me. The overwhelming success of Hoofin' It, a story I, at the time, wrote of as a hackneyed, cheesy cash in of a comedy fic brought a crashing realization down on my head: I wasn't very good at all. I was a horrible author who had reached his zenith with a shitty pseudo-clopfic that wilts beneath the majestic resplendence of other writers who sat at a bar I would never even glimpse the shadow of. I'd worked my ass off for the past several months, and the tainted epiphany washed over me like a swarm of locusts devouring the damned and the worthless.
(In hindsight, it was a really silly thing to think, but this was the mindset that devoured my thoughts. I was in no proper state to write. The passion had vanished. The flame had been snuffed out by the inevitable ego-conjured breeze. No matter how much I enjoyed writing, what was the point if I would never be one of the greats?)
I've always had a bad (well, crippling is more apt) habit of comparison. Not just comparing myself and my accomplishments to others, but comparing my ideas to the hypothetical ideal version of something. If I brainstormed a story idea, I would immediately compare it to a hazy, illusory version of the story. One that was lofty, epic, perfectly written, well-executed and an all-around smash hit, a legacy of the fandom that would endure even as the final canon episode was pressed into the memory of its viewers. Perfectionism is a dangerous thing, and more often than those who suffer from it hold it up as a point of pride, a badge of honor that exemplifies high standards and settling for nothing less than the best. In actuality, it's an insidious mask that veils the true culprit: a crippling fear of failure and the belief that if something isn't perfect, it's a horrible failure that doesn't deserve to be released into the world.
Obviously, I had some problems. Problems that were 21 years in the making and were finally being excised like a throbbing tumor, to the horror of its bearer. I wasn't as good as I thought I was. I was scum. Other authors, other stories were smarter, cleverer, more eloquent, more poignant, stuffed with minute details, witty asides, and top-notch characterization that were miles ahead of anything I would ever produce. I would always be a shadow, obliterating by the radiant majesty of these titanic author kings.
Needless to say, I wasn't exactly right in the head.
My ideology during this time was an antiquated dead-end agent of self-sabotage. Until this point, I'd always believed that anything less than stellar wasn't worthy of the world's attention and should be buried as to not waste anyone's time. (Naturally, I never came out and expressed these views, because I recognized them for what they were: callous and assholish. I summarily believed that if people's best efforts didn't meet an incredibly high bar, they should just shut up and let the true stars shine. Our time on earth is limited, so why dabble with anything but the best?
I'm sure everyone can guess that I didn't speak up much when I thought ill of something. Hyper-criticism was the name of the game, imposed upon myself and my surroundings for as long as I could remember. I was an intensely harsh critic, especially to myself, to the point of self-annihilation.
(Left-field aside: Chrome doesn't flag "assholish" as misspelled. Google, you truly are in touch with the masses).
The inner-critic is the demon on the shoulder that I've been wrangling with ever since the wheels fell off two years ago. I swore to myself that I would be better, that I would dispose of the issues that had been plaguing me for my entire life. My former personality was a caustic exoskeleton that needed shedding as soon as possible. Ironically, this only aggravated my proclivity towards self-criticism. During this fervent crusade of self-improvement, I spotted personal flaws everywhere I looked. Cold in Gardez wrote an awesome story? Look at that amazing tale you didn't write. Blueshift makes a witty aside in one of his humor fics? How come you're not that clever? Shortskirts is showing off his erudite vocabulary? Look at all those words you don't know. You're not good enough. Look at where you fall short. Look at all the gaps in your knowledge, the things you don't know, the pieces that are missing from you. You need to get better. You're worthless if you don't improve.
I realize this reads as indulgently melancholy, but these were the thoughts flying through my head on a daily basis, exacerbated by my tendency to compare myself to others, holding myself to impossibly high standards. Whenever I tried to sit down for something as simple as brainstorming, I would immediately place enormous amounts of stress on myself to write the most absolute, pitch-perfect, astonishing, legendary, clever, fandom breaking story in all written history.
I'm only exaggerating a little.
Hindsight is 20/20, afterall. And now I recognize my behavior for what it was: needlessly imposing external measures of self-worth upon myself and ignoring all the arenas where I already excelled. Even tapping away at this blog post, I'm recognizing my style for what it is: simple and raw. A year ago, I would've chastised these traits as despicable because other stories were eloquent and verbose, sporting pitch-perfect vocabulary. Even with all the improvements I've made, there are still myriad words I don't know, including those I feel I should know. Like I'm a dolt for not knowing them. Hell, even I didn't know what a rotunda was until it was dropped in "Games Ponies Play." Does everyone else know that word? Is it common knowledge? How far behind the curve am I?
I've been enduring a long-winding road of self-improvement. Sunny has been a Celestia-send (appropriate, given that Celestia is his best pony and he'll stick you with verbal daggers if you try and say otherwise), and I shudder to think where I would be without his constant presence and counsel. Time after time, he's set me straight in my silly, western-enforced worldviews of self-worth while constantly reminding me of my own uniqueness, even if I was too lost and sullen to believe him at the time.
(Honestly, my chance encounter with Sunchaser has convinced me that the universe is kind and will nudge us towards where we need to go. If I hadn't posted that mopey blog post, I never would have met him. Or would I have? There layins the chaotic beauty of the world. Things can only turn out the way they are).
Now, two years later, I'm beginning to see how silly I was. Even though there's miles left on the track, littered with myriad words and topics I don't know that I see sprinkled in every story, that's no reason to write off writing. Just because my stories may not be perfect doesn't mean they're worthless. Finally, finally, this mindset is dawning on me, like a mother nuzzling her foal awake after a long and twisted nightmare. I still compare myself to others now and again, yes, but I recognize it for what it is: the ego's attempt to sabotage the self from knowing its true glory. I still have difficulties brainstorming and developing story ideas, but now I know how to stop imposing a notion of what the story should be like, and instead look for the potential lingering right in front of me. I won't write for the wrong reasons anymore. I won't write to prove to the world that I'm good enough. I'll write for simple reasons: because it's fun, and because it's a noble craft that breathes the summary essence of humanity into the world, touching us in ways that linger far beyond the closing words. Because there are wonderful characters with stories to tell and I'm cheating them by saying they're not good enough to be known.
This blog post is not a promise, but a reassurance. I'm still alive, I've learned, I'm better, and I hope to go places.
The road winds on amongst rickety bridges and towering summits, but looking back, I can already see how far along I've come.
Thanks to everyone who's stuck around through my absence and been patient through my stagnance. I hope to be with you all shortly.
(As a final signoff, I'd like to share a speech by David Foster Wallace that has helped dispel years of western social conditioning. It's the wisest, truest advice I've ever heard, and I believe the knowledge contained therein is essential towards living a well-adjusted, perceptive life. I've listened to it over a hundred times and I still find myself nodding sagely along every time).
Take care, everyone!
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