Friday, March 11, 2011
Hey, It's Just a First Draft
There should be a disclaimer on this blog somewhere that since I'm a writer I will hopelessly abuse metaphors.
Anyway, I just thought I'd talk about something that's been haunting me for a while. Hopefully that'll help clear it from my head.
Writing is like a relationship. Each book is like a new relationship, but writing itself is like a the record of your love life. It's just a long term thing, whereas each book is like a summer fling: great, but eventually it'll come to an end. Hopefully a good one.
In every relationship, there are ups and downs. The book that's currently on sub was like an up point of the relationship. It felt like I couldn't do wrong with it. I loved every moment of it. I wouldn't shut up about it. I was truly, one-hundred percent in love. This didn't mean it wasn't a lot of hard work, but compared to some other books I've written in the past, it was a breeze.
Now I'm working on the second book in the trilogy and it's... shall we say, not as great.
It's not you, book, it's me. You see, I just got out of this great relationship, and, well, I'm not sure if I'm ready to commit again.
Time and time again I've said Shell was the best thing I've ever written. And it was up until that point. But I never wanted it to be the best thing I'll ever write. I want to use Shell as a place where I can learn and grow from. I never want to stop learning and working on my craft. But I feel as though I'm suffering from a case of fear of failure. I'm terrified this book won't live up to the first. I've got a typical case of Sophomore Blues, which is common after writers find some success with an agent/editor.
And objectively speaking, I know my sequel is good. If I detach myself (which I can do for a few moments in time, much like holding my breath) then I can see its merits. But most of the time I stare at it and think, "This is terrible. I can't do this. It'll be horrible and everyone will hate me." I've torn apart the beginning about eight or twenty times now. I finally have something that I'm at least satisfied with, and I can't seem to look past the little imperfections and just write the story.
My inner editor is going off the rocket. So how do you handle a psychotic inner editor? Much like you'd handle a psychotic ex.
Get the hell away from it.
This may be easier to do with a psychotic ex, not so much an inner editor, but the concept is the same. Whenever I'm struggling, I move my writing space. Usually that's to a different desk in my basement (I have three.) If that doesn't work I go and work at the table upstairs. (The light from the windows helps sometimes.) And then if that fails I usually leave the house. I go out to the mall, or the Starbucks by my place. (Although the Starbucks has internet, which is always a good thing to avoid when struggling with writing.)
Something about moving really seems to help conquer that inner editor, at least for a while. I went to my favorite place in the mall the other day, where I plugged in my iPod, watched the people pass me by, and wrote. And I got a lot done. It was fabulous. For a while I forgot about the pressures and thought, "Hey, this is just a first draft."
It's hard to conquer that voice that says you're not good enough. Sometimes you just need a change of location. Or for someone to look at your work and say, "It's good." Or taking some time to be alone and think about your novel.
But the great thing about this line of work is that everything is subjective. What's gold to one reader is trash to another. And as long as you understand what's good and what's your inner editor trying to sabotage you, you'll be fine.