I'm having a really tough time with this novel writing workshop I'm taking through my current grad program. Beforehand, I was really excited for it. Heck, I even finished a draft of a novel to edit in this class, something I hadn't been able to do in two years since the nonstop isolation and rejection from previous attempts had become too much. And I can tell that this draft is pretty awful. The language is horribly stilted and reads like it came from a person with no passion for life… but I felt a few very brief moments(a few minutes) of getting lost in creating a story, like some wall was coming down. It's nothing like several years ago when I could just spend hours writing and feeling something most of the time, but I found an ember of what used to be a raging flame. So I thought I had made progress, then class started.
And a lot of the time, I felt like things kept setting me off. These unreasonable pangs of fear, frustration, and anger directed at myself kept jumping to the surface. I didn't feel me I guess. It's like I instantly reverted to the person I was the last time I entered Pitch Wars, an outsider looking in to the "real world" of writers where everyone leaves with friends, feedback, and sometimes they even win a mentor or an agent. I was a person who is only good enough to spectate on life, but never participate.
Most of the other students already knew each other and their work, and had a real passion for it, and the outsider-looking-in feeling made me shut down. The professor mentions how they still keep in touch with people from their workshop, and there's kind of a nod of approval from the others. I start to shudder inside with that knowledge that I will again be the one whose writing inspires no love from others and will leave the class with no connections. That "didn't fall in love with the voice" will keep following me here. Which then leads to when the professor opened questions on elements we most wanted to explore, and I asked about voice, mentioning that the one thing I want to learn is having a voice that some reader out there would enjoy. And I get told that voice is your unique personality and it can't really be wrong, and I try to explain that mine must be wrong or at least deeply flawed based on the fact that every single rejection mentions that my voice makes no impression, and the rest of the room just… doesn't get it. Like, they must understand something implicitly that I don't. Then, the whole class was asked to identify their strengths as a writer, and I just couldn't answer. I could not say that I had any kind of strength without believing that to be a lie.
And the worst part? I wasn't always like this. I've always been socially awkward, bad at making friends, insecure, and not fun to be around in normal social situations(I don't enjoy drinking to excess or "just dance" scenarios)… but writing used to be different. I used to be able to workshop pages and swap decent feedback, I would go to conferences and have a good time with a group of strangers, even bump elbows with professional writers… hell, I got to hang out with a NYT bestseller, and he made me feel like I belonged. Now, I don't think I'd be able to face my heroes beyond the quick "hello and thank you" I was able to say to Brandon Sanderson(heck, it was probably to my benefit that Sanderson was under the weather and couldn't talk to people much, as I legitimately would have probably just noped out of the conversation with an "I don't want to bother you" and looked like a massive jerk). Sure, I always failed to make long-term connections with other writers, but now I can't even pull it off for two hours.
Sorry about writing more than I had planned, and if this is a little above the pay grade of a writing sub, I also apologize. I really want to succeed in this workshop, because it could mark a positive turning point for me as a writer, and by extension, as a person. I know the workshop isn't doing anything wrong. The other students are significantly better writers than I am. I know without a doubt that, like with everything else involving my writing, I am the problem. It is all my fault. And I don't want to be the problem. I already feel like I've made a terrible first impression, and that I won't get any decent feedback as a result(either because they find me a thoroughly uninspiring person, or they think I have a fragile ego and will pull punches). What can I do to stop turning into the worst version of myself here?