In 2017, I did some research on the psychology of resentment according to Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Orwell, and others. Certainly, resentment has driven the political climate in the 20th century to great ruin, but it is also present in shaping our own identity and behavior. It’s a powerful and universal emotion (it’s no coincidence that the second bible story—Cain and Abel— is all about it) and I’ve been honest in recognizing when it rears up in me.
Before we delve into the resentments, the good things first. My two favorite books of 2017 were THE SECRET OF VENTRILOQUISM by Jon Padgett and CREEPING WAVES by Matthew M Bartlett. These two weird horror books were a joy to read, masterfully capturing the spirit of the genre and stoking my imagination. I prefer stories based on philosophy, and the ontological underpinnings of degradation and rot were front and center in both books. Click the titles for my full ‘existential’ reviews.
One of my regrets (not quite a resentment) is that I didn’t do more reading. I have discovered many authors and books that I am excited to dive into, but I need the time and patience to actually sit down and read. Reading is a necessary step to make anyone a better writer, and this is where I need to put in the road work. Currently, I am reading the short story collections ALECTRYMANCER by Christopher Slatsky and BEHOLD THE VOID by Philip Fracassi with OCCULTATION by Laird Barron on deck. I read a great story by Livia Llewellyn this year online (she conjured such a creepy atmosphere which was so dead-on perfect that it really fired up my resentment meter) and must get something by her soon.
Onto the resentments! For psychologist Carl Jung, the pathway to higher wisdom is only accessible through your ‘shadow’ self, which is the really dark and nasty parts of us we don’t like to admit. Most people deny their resentments, but repressing what is an essential part of us can lead to anxiety, depression, and worse. Think of the metaphoric warning of the intractable horror of the over-civilized Dr. Jekyll and the animalistic Mr. Hyde. Jung argued that we should shine a light on resentments to bring them into our whole, a much healthier condition than Jekyll/Hyde. He didn’t stop short of just naming the darkness, but encouraged a celebration of our rascalarity.
So have I been conscious of any resentments that well up in me. Generally, there are two kinds. We resent when we are truly wronged, or, and this is far more common, we resent when projecting our own failings onto others. Both inform us of the obstacles either external or internal that we need to overcome and which require action to resolve.
My main goal for the year was to become a better writer. Reading other’s work, writing as much as I can (anything including blog posts), and asking for feedback with other writers/readers was the plan. I’ve admitted my failure in the reading department and I could have written much more. Saying I didn’t have ‘the time’ would be a lie—frivolous distractions, laziness, and flagging motivation were the main culprits. However, on the last front, I did trade several stories with other authors. Seeing my stories through another’s eye was a little scary, but proved to be a revelation. More than helping to better the individual story, the general feedback provided me some vital clues of my weaknesses and blind spots as well as some of my writerly strengths which were equally hidden to me. Thanks to everyone who has read for me this year and have been candid with the comments!
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a number of flash fiction and short stories published over the last year. However, nothing was pro-paying or widely read. This is probably a garden variety resentment among writers—why did I get rejected to market X, or, why did so-and-so’s story get accepted over mine, etc. Truth is, I didn’t submit to many high profile markets in the first place, not wanting to waste my time with the inevitable rejection I assumed I would get. Also, I had a goal of publishing a short story collection of Christmas horror stories which never happened. I wrote all the first drafts in 2016 and figured I would edit them during the year and publish. However, I never felt the editing was done, and dragged my feet on commissioning a cover for it anyway. I felt a great weight off my shoulders when I decided to shelve it until 2018. Despite my protestations of a lack of time, deep down I know I am capable of improving the stories if I honestly put in the work to become a better writer.
The greatest resentment over a specific story of mine was a short story I disguised as an am-writing blog post titled: Self-editing Tips and the Doorway to Enlightenment. The ultimate purpose was the fiction element, an existential descent into embracing the ‘shadow’ self. The actual writing tips I used were only meant to be misdirection to the unfolding horor. However, the comments I received were about the usefulness of the writing tips which were either because no one really read it, or my story set-up and execution was too obtuse. The shame of a mockumentary taken literally.
Also on the resentments reel in 2017 was Facebook. Gaining exposure is difficult so I joined up this year fearful I was missing out on a batch of readers just pining for my stuff. However, it’s never that easy. I admit to anxiety and some measure of dread when receiving messages or anything posted to my timeline as I am oblivious to proper social media etiquette to respond as well as paranoid of other’s ulterior motives. Facebook is probably not that hard or sinister. My resentment is probably me dragging my feet in learning it functions and using it more. It may help too if I don’t view every person who attempts to interact with me so cynically as if they are some wild dog set loose in my house.
Of course, there are many more resentments, too many to list, some amazingly petty, others pointless, but accepting my shadow hopefully will help me to become a better and more productive writer. Owning up to my fears, indignations, and jealousies, the right path is becoming clear, as opposed to the idealistic one we all like to believe exists where short-cuts and tricks can get you by.
Thanks to everyone who stuck it out to the end of this post. I’ll leave with a link to a free story I posted late in the year which may be my unconscious way to sum up my 2017 in writing. My working title for this was ‘The House of Flame’; however, I figured out why I was compelled to write it, made some changes, and retitled it the fitting, RAINBOWS AND RESENTMENT.