Saturday, August 3, 2013

"And you people have to tear him down so you can sleep better tonight!"

In the swirling mess that is my head - made even more messy by a pesky migraine today - two comments have come together in a sort of cosmic connection.  Probably not at that scale, but the alliteration was fun.  The first was made to me a few months ago and went something like, "Why do most authors have such low esteem about their work?"  I presumed at the time that it was based on the ratio of rejection to acceptance
He had a terrible headache too.
but now think that isn't quite it.

The second comment was along the lines of, "Why do most people only focus on how far they have to go rather than reflecting, even for a moment, on how far they've come?"

Why, indeed.

I see these two as interconnected now - the writer is never satisfied because he is always improving his skill so anything that was written before isn't as good as it would be, were it written now.  I've read dozens of books where I felt, with a great degree of confidence, that I could have written it better (if only I had the discipline to sit down and write it) but there are dozens more that leave me thinking, "Why am I even trying?  That book was amazing."

We, as writers, always see how far we have to go to be among the greats.  We don't look left or right at our peers - they aren't the mark.  Then, on the occasions when we actually look back, instead of being encouraged, we see only embarrassment - someone actually read that - mixed with hopelessness - I thought that was good?  I have sooo far to go.  When I'm running I have just the opposite.  Two miles was hard, then easy.  Five miles was hard, then easy.  When I look back I can say, "Wow, I've gotten a lot better.  I never could have done this before."

We should be able to do that as writers too.  I don't know why we can't.  Is it that the self promotion makes us uncomfortable?  We already felt weird telling someone that we are so good they should invest their life in reading what we wrote - such arrogance, right?  "I know you usually only read Hemingway and Higgins-Clark, but my stuff is just as worthy of your time."  Is it having to overcome our resistance to that and then looking back and seeing how awful it actually was?  (Usually in our minds only, most terrible writers give up long before more than a few very close friends have seen their work.)

When that doubt creeps in, when you are tempted to belittle how far you've come, resist.  You are better than most because you haven't quit.  Each piece you write on purpose will make you better.  Sure, doubt is still there, but... "Pretend You Don't See Her".

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