It’s every morning, lately, that the reflection in my mirror is wrong. Not just reversed, because reflections are always reversed, but wrong: influenced, and mildly possessed. Someone slightly other than me.
I’m sure that others have lived this. Perhaps everyone has. Lewis Carroll almost certainly lived it, when he imagined a world that fractured images rather than glass, just beyond his own mirror. What did he see, that day he was so inspired? Were there really talking chess pieces and bullfrogs looking back at him, or just someone that he didn’t quite recognize? Someone not quite himself?
Did rejection by publishers change even his reflection?
As insanities go, this is the greater one. Perhaps a changing self is more subtle than a vanishing cat with an escalating grin, but subtlety can be powerful. The Cheshire Cat, at least, had the decency to vanish under scrutiny… unlike my own stubborn reflection, which just stares obstinately back, daring me to find what has escalated or vanished from it since I finally got used to it yesterday. The changes that I find so alarming aren’t the creases that have grown or the brown in my beard that is vanishing. The problem is that the reflection today isn’t as much as it was yesterday. It’s lost its muchness.
I can almost hear Carroll’s Hatter, who may or may not have been mad, saying to my reflection what he said to Alice. “You used to be much more… ‘muchier.’ You’ve lost your muchness.” So, this isn’t a new quality, this muchness: it’s something that’s been around, and been dwindling, since Lewis Carroll’s day. Each day dwindles the power of confidence, which once made me know I was right even when I was wrong; each day weakens the force of ambition, which used to make me achieve half of what I wanted but double what I could. This is the daily warning that’s harder to read from my reflection: not that I’m older or less attractive than yesterday, but that my ideas are weaker. They’ve been weakened by an array of zany characters running the wonderland of our publishing industry. They need their muchness back.
It’s hard to ignore. Reflections stand upright in their well behind the glass. They do not move unless we do, so they do not lie.
Ideas, whose passion once filled the vessel of my mind close to genius, now trickle into a shallow pool somewhere near its base. While the mirror may not see this, the change cannot help but reflect in it. If I were Alice, I could climb inside, and seek the reasons for this through the eyes of allegorical characters who inspire dreams and nightmares. Not being Alice, of course, I can only look around me for answers. I can only turn away from the mirror.
Perhaps that’s my advantage, though; Alice was trapped inside the looking-glass, unable to ignore what it showed her. I’m not; maybe I can walk away. Here are four things I might try:
- Designating one day per week only to look at responses and feedback from publishers/agents. This might allow enough time for new ideas to form without that constant sense of dismissal.
- Always hiring a professional editor for longer fiction, before sending it to anyone. This could not only give the writing its best chance, but also forge contacts in the industry that could help to…
- More carefully research representation to ensure that the agent is strongly aligned with my style of writing. I’m not sure how to go about this, other than studying sites like QueryTracker, so any comments with suggestions would be welcome.
- Putting less pressure on myself to blog, to leave more time for writing. It’s been two weeks, so I’m sure that some of my followers have noticed this already.
What these four strategies all have in common is that core element of walking away—not entirely, but just long enough to get back some sense of self. If I can walk away from the hailstorm of negative feedback that nearly every new writer faces, then maybe the dam of self-doubt will open, letting ideas flow again. If I can walk away from the reflection and back into a world that isn’t reversed, maybe I can recover some muchness.
Maybe we can all live outside of the mirror.
(Disclaimer: Yes, I’m aware that many of the adventures cited here occurred down a rabbit-hole, not through a looking-glass. Let’s not… wait for it… split hares!)