Doubt is a profound stage of coming to consciousness, isn't it? Of course at one point you are supposed to pass through it. Bhanu Kapil once told someone that my blog is an example of doubt, and I think that's true. Yet - one can not truly fulfill one's vision when riddled with doubt. Perhaps that's why this space here is an in-between space, a space I explore when I feel overcome with such doubt and uncertainty. And don't want it to infect any project I'm working on. Or this is also the project. A project of uncertainty and doubt. Of feeling often in bad faith.
When I think of my coming to writing, to use Cixous' model, the idea of writing as a state of consciousness or selfdom, I think of feeling fairly protected, away from a world that would reject me. And I kept myself, quite safe, for a while. I was isolated and alienated but there was a voluptuousness about it. I had no mentors. Only, as I write in Heroines, "ghostly tutors," these women I surrounded myself with. Zelda, Vivien(ne), Jane Bowles. Perhaps this is strange, that the women I looked to for advice from the past were women whose writing lives were absolutely overcome by doubt and failure, whose writing was ended too early, a larger, spiritual, death before the other death, as Jean Rhys writes in Wide Sargasso Sea.
I have never had a fleshly mentor, a writer I admired in real life who gave me advice on how to BE a writer. For that's often what we need advice in - the projects, sure, but how to exist in the world, how to cultivate and continue, despite the constant state of rejection, how personal this rejection often can feel. How to go through our publishing lives with our integrity intact.
I have reached out to others, occasionally. I remember, sobbing, torrentially, in my car, while getting ready to teach a final class at the MFA program in Pittsburgh, where my students were giving a reading, because I had just received an email from a very rock-star woman writer, BEGGING me not to publish Green Girl. I had emailed her to ask her to blurb it. She wrote to me - with the best intentions I'm sure - this is not a novel. This is not finished. I have no doubt, she wrote, if you spent another year at it, this could someday be a novel worthy of you. Of course the book was at the printer. I emailed Lidia Y. That's only one writer's opinion, she said. You have to ignore it. And so I did. Although I think that - fragility - of that sobbing scene - stayed with me - for a while I was unconvinced there was anything promising in that novel because that one writer, who has a public image of being so kind and generous - told me it wasn't any good.
One has to learn, I guess, to listen only to oneself.
I received a rejection this morning. And I wanted so badly to talk to a mentor about it, about the nature of the rejection, the verbiage, I wanted someone pushing me and telling me not to listen to them, which I know anyway. I racked my brain this AM for mentors. I thought of Kathy Acker. I thought maybe I should have a seance. Or I could read her. Or I could read Genet's Thief Journal, which I think I will, anyway. I need to inhabit these criminals, these outsiders. Embody them somehow. Listen to them tell me: Don't give a fuck about the market. About the "mainstream." About your character's likability. About your own likability. Write. Just write. Just fucking write. Burn something up. Destroy things.
Do other writers have mentors? How does it work? Is it like having a mother or a therapist? I have not had either for over a decade.