Saturday, March 22, 2008

Returning to Writing After a Long Break

Between vacation and this new blog, I've worked on my near-finished novel maybe once in the last three weeks. Coming back to it sucked --- it usually does. I started reading what I'd written for the chapter so far, just to get my mind back into it. This inevitably led to me editing what I'd written already, an unconscious stall. After two hours of that, minimally improving what was already there, I finally started writing new material at the point where I'd left off.

Another two hours, barely 400 words, and every one of them felt uninspired. In a few days these paragraphs may read better. They may not. But on a satisfaction scale of 1 to 10 --- 10 being ultimate fulfillment and 1 being self-flagellation --- the writing process was at best, today, a 3.

I'm grateful that, lately, it only takes me one sitting of actual writing (editing doesn't count) to get back in the swing of things after a short break, so I'm hopeful that tomorrow will be better, but... nyeghh.

The worst is how pervasive the experience is, because soon it's not merely the words I just wrote down that are blah. It's the whole book. If I really think about it, the very concept is laughably bland. A recent college grad looks for meaning in all the wrong places??? Who the hell am I kidding? I'm insulting my own intelligence.

I know from experience this feeling is only temporary, that soon I will again like my own writing better than anyone else's, that I'll be convinced it deserves to at least get published. But I'm horrified anew, every time this feeling sets in, that my perception of myself can vary so extremely. Is it possible that this wounded sense of myself is closer to reality, and that the other 90 percent of the time I'm deluding myself? Is that delusion the only thing that's allowed me get this far?

People delude themselves about their talents all the time. Just think of singing. Most people don't realize how bad they sound singing. American Idol, karaoke, my roommates in a good mood, any recorded performance of mine that I've yet to destroy --- the evidence is everywhere. What if my ability to write is like some people's ability to sing - an embarassing sham?

Of course I exaggerate, but when you consider what's at stake, even the average of "I'm awesome" and "I suck" is scary. After such an investment of time and emotional energy, I don't want to merely be perfectly decent, or even pretty good. I want to be good enough that I get printed and that lots of people read me. Doesn't have to be a million. A couple thousand would be nice.

Sad to say, if I knew I would never be published, I wouldn't bother writing... at least not a novel. I love my art, but not that much. I need heavy reinforcement to keep going, and for now the prospect of publication seems to be enough. It might even be enough to spur a second novel if --- God, let it be otherwise --- the first doesn't go anywhere.

Ego! Find me again!!!


Duncaan said...

Embedded in this post I saw a call to action… and I'm ready for the challenge! First the easy part... the ego boost. You are a kick ass writer! More specifically, you write from the mind of your character, which breaths life and realism into them that I find rare in literature today. Second, the fact that you are being so introspectively critical is exactly what's going to unlock an amazing end product. I've known you for a long time bud, and you are your own worst critic. I fully expect there to be 100+ "final drafts" of the novel, and that draft 80 will be considerably better than 60. And when you do land on version 183, and it represents something that you are as excited about and as proud of as 'Shoot'… in other words, when it's up to your standards… Magic!

On a side note… "But on a satisfaction scale of 1 to 10 --- 10 being ultimate fulfillment and 1 being self-flagellation --- the writing process was at best, today, a 3."… holy crap, you are Max! Or Max is you…. hmmmm

Jim Cooney said...

Duncaan, I'm utterly flattered, and mystified. Who are you?

I'm guessing Courtney P. but really I don't know!

Anonymous said...

Listen to me, my good man, I totally agree with Duncaan! You haven't come this far without the vote of confidence of many, many discriminating readers of your past endeavors. Talk about writing from the mind of your Character as Duncaan says,I remember the time you wrote about a high school girl who lost her virginity on graduation night and I COULDN'T BELIEVE you not only nailed a 17 year old girl's emotions but expressed them as only she would be able to. I thought, wow, how could this be?, he's such a manly man, what does he know of such frailties. Look kiddo, I've always told you, just keep writing, no matter what, keep writing. You're obliged.
Oh and by the way I was in love with Peter Pan when I a kid! I was crushed to find out he was being played by a woman. The Jabberwocky

Manic Mom said...

OK, so are you ready to share some of your story with some of your fans yet? Would love to read a couple pages.


As long as they're not about french kissing giraffes, because you write fiction, right? You can't make THAT other stuff up! Nice picture!

Doug said...

oh, Jim? See if this works:

Merc said...

I'm afraid I don't know your writing, but I understand the novel blues. ;)

I think a healthy dose of doubt/self-criticism can actually be good. Don't give up, and DO retain your confidence. If you question how good it is, seek to improve, and consistently work at your craft, I think you'll do great.

It's the people who constantly think (and proclaim) how awesome they are that make me want to smack them in the head with a reality check. I see some well-published authors with enormous egos and it just makes me disgusted.

Anyway, here's an ego boost for you. :D *boost* I think we all need it at some point.