Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New resolution

When I was first getting serious about writing, I looked at many of the writer's help sites floating around on the internet. During one of these forays, I ran across a quote that I thought was particularly applicable to me. I can't remember the exact wording or who said it, but the gist was that any writer who wants to be successful must first overcome his hatred of his own work.

That message still resonates with me. My problem (as almost everyone here knows) is that I am a perpetual editor, which essentially keeps me trapped in the words I've already written rather than free to explore the plot elements that are still running around in my head. It means I can't move forward, and it makes me obsess over every flaw, which doesn't do much for my confidence in my own abilities. I've gotten to the point now where I have an almost visceral aversive reaction to sitting down and trying to write, and so I avoid it. I still love my story, but I feel as if I'm failing it - I'm not a good enough writer yet to tell it the way it needs to be told.

Intellectually I know that everyone is bad at first, and that practice is the only way to overcome that. You can't get that practice if you're continually stuck in the same place. I try to move on, but I find myself obsessing about the flaws in the earlier points of the story so much that it's impossible - I just can't focus on the current chapter without going back to the first. So the first has been re-written about thirty times, the second chapter a few times, and the third chapter is still in its infancy.

I'm finally at the point that I must do something different, because what I've been doing hasn't been working. Brant volunteered to let me send him a set number of words each day, and he'd provide some quick editing and shoot it back to me. That way I could see if I was on target with what I was writing, and use that feedback to help guide my next day's writing. I sent off my first email today, with my new beginning to the first chapter (this, incidentally, is the sixth different opening I've tried, and I haven't liked any of them). I guess we'll see how this works. Maybe being accountable to someone else will help me - it certainly worked with the gym!

So here's my new resolution(s): I will write 250 words each day. I will not obsess over getting every detail perfect yet. I will allow myself to edit only for general content and clarity's sake. I will not allow myself to obsess over word choice, pacing, timing, missing or incomplete transitions, vague feelings of dislike, or anything else that will hamper my ability to get the story down in its entirety. I will write, and I will do so until the book is complete.

So there they are, my new resolutions. Maybe I'll even keep them this time.


  1. Well, I had a long comment I wrote about this post. Then it was eaten by the blogspot monster. I am trying to recreate my comments in my mind while they are fresh.

    I found your post quite thought-provoking. So much so that I have trouble deciding on where to begin my comments.

    I agree with the idea that “any writer who wants to be successful must first overcome his hatred of his own work.” But this must be balanced with the need to see and correct your own errors. Some flaws must be tolerated, others corrected. The skill of writing is to distinguish between these two conflicting needs.

    I have also felt that I am failing my story. That I lack the skill or dedication required to do it justice. I know in my heart there is something wonderful in the story I want (even need) to tell, but my words always seem to fall short of the grandeur in my mind. For myself, this sense of failure is balanced by those precious few times when I have reread something I wrote, often long ago, and find a passage that I am amazed I created. These moments, when they come along, make you believe you are capable of doing your story justice. I hope you have had such moments yourself. If not, keep writing. When you have such a moment it makes all the effort worthwhile.

    I hope my giving you daily feedback helps you. Certainly your feedback has been of immense help to me. Your goal is reasonable, and the consistent effort will help you move your story along paragraph by paragraph, page by page, chapter by chapter. Overtime the work will be completed, and you will have overcome your “visceral aversive reaction” to the process of writing.

    There is much to love in the written word and the process of creative writing. Finding those things that excite your imagination and drive your creative urges is a battle, but one worth fighting. The reward is a work uniquely your own, a creation conceived and made real by you alone. Others may help, advise, and guide you, but the work must be done by you, and the pride of accomplishment in finishing is yours alone to savor.

  2. I agree with Brant. This is a good blog, and so much of what you wrote rings true with me too. I often feel overwhelmed with the idea that the story is beyond my capabilities. But, like Brant, I have also uncovered something I have written a while ago, and was amazed with how good it sounded to me. For me, I think the key is to step away from the finished piece for a day or two before reading it. I am way to critical of myself to edit as soon as I am finished.

    Let me also say this. I have seen your work, and I think you are really on to something. Yes, you are having a time trying to find the perfect setting for the opening scenes. But, as you know, we have all been there. I think your story is also more unique than you have given yourself credit for, and perhaps this is why you get stuck sometimes. Keep to your resolution, and in no time I will be more jealous of you than of Brant... :)