Monday, June 29, 2009

Fleeting Confidence


As a writer confidence can be a fleeting thing. While in the middle of a story, focused on placing words on the page, most of us don't necessarily worry about the absolute quality of the writing. We just want to finish, and figure we'll polish it up later.

This is the right approach, but it has a nasty side effect. It can cause confidence problems. Reading through the first draft, the writer can become extremely negative about the work, because.... well ... it sucks.

There will be moments of goodness, maybe even greatness, but there will also be moments of extreme suckage. (A technical writing term, in case you didn't know it.)

It's these moments of extreme suckage that can damage a writer's fragile confidence. It's these moments that can cause the writer to pause, and think about whether they really like to write, or not. These moments of suckage can make the writer think that they're no good.

When it happens, and it will, what are you going to do? Give up?

That's exactly what happens to some beginning writers. They write the first draft, start the process of revision, realize that what they've written blows chunks, and throw in the towel. A very unfortunate result after hours and days of work.

What should you do?

It's highly possible that there is no real story, and maybe the scene should be tossed, or maybe the entire book. Fine. Figure out what didn't work and write a new one. If that one doesn't work either, figure out what's wrong with that one and write another one.

The point being, that this tenacity and focus is what separates a writer, from someone who likes to write. A writer will continue to hone their craft until they can captivate readers with their storytelling. Someone who likes to write, will continue to write in their diary, and won't necessarily improve other than through practice.

Write the best story you can write. When revising, focus on making the story better, and don't get bogged down by the parts you hate. Make them better.

11 comments:

  1. I fight and fight and fight with my manuscripts, but there's nothing else for me to do but move forward. But yes, I've stood in the fires of self doubt many a day. Scary moments. You have to be greater than the fire.

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  2. What an awesome post and the timing couldn't be better. Following critique I often struggle with whether I should continue this process, but I can't possibly imagine myself not writing. It's good to know that I'm not the only one that thinks like this and that this too shall pass. Thanks so much.

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  3. I don't know if "hone" is the right word for what I'm going through right now. Honing is what I do to my chain saw to make it cut wood like butter. I guess then I'm "honing" my self-editor or something.
    So to stretch this analogy, I feel like I have a chain saw that's missing a bunch of teeth, and no matter how much I cut and slash at my ms, it keeps growing on me like an out-of-control weed.
    It feels like I'm never going to turn this field of weeds into a well-tended garden.

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  4. Two great pieces of advice gleaned today: Acknowledge extreme suckage and get over it. Be greater than the fire.

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  5. I always say: Embrace the Suck!

    If you're not making mistakes, you're not learning anything.

    It is, however, helpful to other people if you go about your business in a professional way.

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  6. Doug is right, of course. Every writer has made the mistake of writing something, reading it, and tearing it up! Bad writing isn't the mistake, giving up is.

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  7. Good advice! No one will ever be a perfect writer, but we can be great writer's. Learning what we do wrong is a great way to learn what we can do right!

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  8. I know all about suckage. Love that term by the way. It's true, beginner writers need to accept that writing is work. Few writers get first drafts right!

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  9. You summed up that insecure feeling up so well. Nice to know I'm not the only one who thought the only way to improve a few pieces of writing was to hit the delete button.

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  10. I've heard it said that sometimes you have to write pages of crap just to find the moment your story or scene really starts.

    There are reasons to give yourself permission to write crap, but I'm leaning more toward being inspired when I write and writing with the hope that the final draft will still embody the rhythm and passion of the moment. If you have to go back and revise and revise you are so likely to revise some of the passion and rhythm right out.

    - That's the current state of my thinking on the subject, which is different from a year or so ago.

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  11. wow, Doug! awesome post -- and like others have already commented, so timely, at least for me. Persistence is vital, yes? thanks for the reminder...i don't want to be a diary-doodler :P

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