A couple of years ago I was on a book tour and missed Charlie by a couple of hours in western Sydney. He left a treat for me at the bookshop, however. A signed copy of Singularity Sky. I enjoyed it very much. So it was a surprise to read this entry at his blog about the 'nightmarish mire of despair' that the book became for him. I'm more a slough of despond guy myself, but I can relate to a good mire of despair.
Rewind to 1996. I was living in Edinburgh, working for a web consultancy that was in the process of going bust. The year before, I'd handed in the way-overdue manuscript of "The Web Architect's Handbook", a non-fic get-rich-quick scheme originally proposed in 1993 which crashed and burned in the market because folks who weren't working 60-80 hours a week as CGI app troubleshooters got their how-to books out first. I was writing about an article a month for "Computer Shopper" (the British mag, not the Ziff-Davis title) and I'd sold one short story that year — a reprint. I was 32, I'd sold about a dozen or two short stories, signally failed to sell a novel while everyone else I knew who'd begun selling short fiction through Interzone at the same time had become a household name (Pete Hamilton, Steve Baxter, Paul McAuley ... do I need to continue?), and was having a crisis of confidence.
I totally get where he's coming from. So much of writing is a confidence trick. Like 'form' for a sportsman. You can go through the motions in a textbook fashion, but if you don't feel like you're killing it, it's gonna kill you.
I've struggled with and buried more than my fair share of projects over the years. Released a few into the wild that should never have made it as well.
"What do you do when you have a crisis of confidence in what you've seen as your vocation (write science fiction) since age 15?" asks Charlie. "You either give up completely, or you double-down".
(My thanks to Murph for the link).