Why I Shut Down The Site (For Ten Minutes)

Although I’m almost certain that only one or two people even noticed it, I feel compelled to explain why I shut down the site for ten minutes on Wednesday afternoon. Earlier in the day, I had received an email from a dear friend of mine, someone I trust wholeheartedly to evaluate my work. In the message, she offered constructive criticism on my latest short story, “The Word on the Ceiling”. None of it was meant to break me, or to suggest that the story was deficient in any major way.

But I was in the wrong place to be reading that email. I should have known better than to read it. But I read it anyway. And so began a vicious downward spiral that resulted in me melodramatically renouncing my writing career, a decision capped off by my closure of this very website.

I’ve been obsessed lately with a piece of advice offered to me during numerous publishing panels I attended during my time in the Lesley program. That advice was for novelists and it suggested that the best way to grab the attention of an agent is to publish shorter work in literary magazines. And since having an agent is essentially a requirement for the novelist who has any dreams of ever publishing his work somewhere reputable, I became obsessed with polishing my shorter work, with getting it out there this fall, so that by the time my novel was ready, I would have a reputation to build on.

What my friend’s careful, constructive criticism set off in me wasn’t something that I had expected. I immediately began to feel, since I hadn’t received an enthuiastic stamp of approval, since she agreed with Stephanie that there was still work to be done, that I was simply incapable of writing a short story. Not once in these last few years had I ever been told I had a story that worked. I’d been told countless times that this part worked, or that part worked, but I’d never yet been offered the opinion that I’d finished something. And if I hadn’t been able to finish a story after years and years of trying, what was I doing still trying to write them? At some point, you have to face the facts that you’re not good at something, even if that something is something your passionate about, something you can’t imagine your life without.

This disappointment in my ability to write a short story spread. Soon I was convincing myself that my novel was shit, that this website was shit, and that I had no business writing at all. I was fed up with myself, with my inability to finish things, and I decided it was time that the worthless experiment of this website was ended.

So, I took the site down.

It was frighteningly easy, requiring only two mouse clicks plus the coding of a “goodbye” message. I did it, and I walked away. I got back to work. But it was only ten minutes before I got to thinking that it was a stupid thing to do, another display of my immaturity and my melodramatic tendencies. I turned the site back on, but I didn’t feel any better.

Alone in my office for the day, I took to the couch in the other room and cried. I cried and cried and cried.

Insecurities, I have a few.

I’m still not sure what I’ll do next. I don’t feel any better now than I did on Wednesday afternoon, except that my compulsion to write, which is already haunting me again, feels like an addiction that I should seek help to overcome. I often find myself thinking that if I could just give this up I would be a much happier person.

But I’m not sure that’s true either. I’m not sure what would make me happy. In the end, I’m not even sure I want to be happy.