Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Realistic Ambition or False Expectation?

During one of my 'can't write' days, which are cropping up with monotonous regularity lately, I came across a blog offering writing advice - OK I Googled under 'I am a failed novelist' but that's how I feel today, and I found I am not alone. The following are 'reasons' I discovered in various articles and blogs.

This writing thing is starting to get to you 

Yup, and all those comments like,  'What are you writing now?', when my last novel came out THREE Days ago!

Yesterday, you thought you were the next big thing. 

Um no,  not really, but I was hoping to appeal to a niche set of readers who like the past as much as I do, sell a few copies of my novel and have a reader sent me an e-mail saying how much they enjoyed the story. Is that too much to ask?

Today, you wonder if you have any talent at all 
Precisely - I read and re-read my manuscript, tweak, alter, delete, modify, look at it from a different perspective and it still reads like a telephone directory!

Good writing takes practice, just like anything else. Don’t expect too much of yourself, too quickly.
But I was more enthusiastic, committed, confident and willing to learn when I was writing my first and second novels - now the more I know of the technical aspects of writing - I just think I'm rubbish!

You’re forcing yourself to write something specific
Well yeah!  Without a story arc, rounded characters and a plot that progresses the story with every scene, the book won't float - specific is what it is about!

You might be writing in the wrong style or genre?
Um no - historical fiction is the only genre I feel passionate enough to write about - but you could have a point with the style thing. How does a writer alter their style?

You’ve let criticism cut to the heart. Each fresh rejection convinces you — at least for a while — that you shouldn’t be wasting your time.

Yeah Ok, I'll gloss over that one even though it's the actual heart of the matter- and I am still bleeding!

Whenever the going gets tough, you give up. If you never feel the sting of rejection, you will never feel the drive to improve your writing.

I have to disagree with that one, it's praise, mentoring and encouragement that keeps me going. Ripping holes in my self esteem just pushes me deeper into the 'I can't do this!' pit I have been digging for myself.

You’ve allowed other things to get in the way of your writing time.

Actually yes. I spend hours on my laptop, having flung myself into several blogs, critique groups, review sites etc and all my time seems to be spent doing those instead of the actual hard slog of writing and making my embryo novel the best it can be. I need to re-focus.

Have you overloaded yourself on social commitments? 
- I shan't answer that or I shall degenerate into gibbering hysteria - an outing for me is a trip to the supermarket!

You might find, like many people, that early morning can be the most productive period of your day. 
Uh no, I am at my most creative at night, but how can I type until 3.00am with a sleeping husband beside me. If I turn over he wakes up and demands to know where I am going!!  As for staying up after he retires - forget it!

You haven’t finished what you’ve started.
Not true, I have four published novels and another three finished ones on my hard drive - It's No 8 I cannot summon the enthusiasm to even plan out, let alone actually write. Because what's the point?

You haven’t spent enough time reading. 
I refute that one too, the review blog keeps me reading all the newest releases. There are some lovely ones I wish I possessed the skills to write, but there are also plenty that are crass, boring and two dimensional - surely mine aren't as bad - are they?

Writing is an art, but it also involves skills. Study those who have mastered these, read books on writing, research, find a mentor, join a writing group. Give yourself time.

- I do all the above - but feel more and more that the maxim 'You can be what you want to be' strikes me as a completely false expectation. Maybe, no matter how hard we try, not everyone can push through the curtain of mediocrity. That way lies only disappointment - and I must learn to accept my limitations.


Anne Gallagher said...

What a wonderful post!!!! I, too, have felt so many of those same exact things, including the trip to the grocery and the genre.

Thanks for making my day!!! I know I'm not alone.

Anita Davison said...

Thanks for stopping by Anne, and where would we be if we didn't doubt ourselves occasionally? I will get over it and be bashing away again soon-probably!

Diane Scott Lewis said...

Anita, you expressed my feelings perfectly. I'm having my self-doubt pity party (all by myself as hubby just says "Oh well" after my two recent rejections;he's such a master of the pithy statement.) I feel all your pain, but I can tell you this, never change your style of writing!
You're so talented you should be on the Best Seller List and I will say "I knew her when..."
Me, I'm not so sure sometimes!

Anita Davison said...

What sensitive flowers we authors are - it takes so little to have us spiralling into the depths of inadequacy. I enjoy you stories too Diane and always want to know what happens to your heroines. Gillian Bagwell writes my era and she's a dear friend - but she posted today she's six books short of her 10,000 Amazon target - Aaargh!

Maggi Andersen said...

A break maybe will refresh you, Anita. I'd try and write something completely different just as an exercise. Promotion burns one out I find.

Jen Black said...

Well, you can slog it out and do it the hard way - force youself to write number of words a day whatever they turn out to be, or you can close the laptop, head for the beach and breathe deep of the fresh air.
You need a break, girl. Mark a date on your calendar when you'll start writing again, then Go Do Something Different for a few days. Ride a bike, roller skate, whatever, but do it! Get away from the guilt indicing laptop!