Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Crisis of Confidence

This was a rather odd week for me. First, let's get this out of the way, I only added 1,187 words to my WIP this week. That's not good by anyone's standards. Now, I had some good distractions this week like my wife's birthday, a sick baby, and the NFL draft. Yes, I'm a big football nut.  This wasn't just any draft either. My favorite team, the Carolina Panthers, had the very first pick. I also still have the HTTS course, but I consider that time well spent even if it doesn't directly contribute to the word count. But those distractions, while they certainly took time away from writing, were not the major issue this week.

This is something I've talked about before in my online writers group, but I struggle with comparisons. This started out with a good plan. I need critiques and feedback, and I think sometimes the best way to get what you need to help others get that very thing. So I want to help other writers who need critiques. I also need to read good writing to see how its done. There is a website where I can do both. Miss Snarks First Victim.

I started to read a couple of the entries there. These were opening paragraphs of the entrants manuscripts. Then I read my own opening, and I started to feel very discouraged about my own writing. I could clearly see how very far I had to go to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. I'm trying to write my first novel length story. It usually takes two, three, or even more before you work is saleable. The mountain seems so high, the climb so arduous, and I know full well, it could all be for naught.

Those nights, I was forcing the words onto the page. It was like someone had given my inner critic a bull horn. I got to the point where I decided I would just get up from the computer and go do something else.

This is a tough gig. There is no algorithm, no formula you can run your story through and know that it is of a certain quality. I have heard other writers talk about their writing not being 'fit for human consumption'. I always thought those writers were being too hard on themselves. Now, I’m in those shoes.

That was how my week was going. Then somewhere towards the end of the week, I forced myself to revisit the story. I wanted something manageable so I pulled out just the first 50 words or so. It wound up being 63 words. I determined that I was going to revise it and make it the best opening I could. At the end of about an hour, something very odd had happened. I liked my work again, and I was able to get started writing the story again.

This is the second time since I've gotten more serious about my writing that I've had this kind of confidence crisis. I need to come up with some techniques that I can go to when this malaise invades my soul.

Do you struggle with the moments of self-doubt in your writing?

What techniques do you use to deal with them?


Laurie Tom said...

I hesitate to call it a technique, but I just don't give up. I realize that when I stop for too long I get mad at myself. I feel guilty.

Aside from that, I write because I like it. I keep writing because I want to eventually be a full time author. The path from point A to point B is a long one and the journey's length is not the same for every person, but it's only accomplished by putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly for as long as it takes.

There will always be downer moments. Even professional authors face rejection. Some authors get dropped by their publishing labels and start using pen names to publish again without looking like a has-been. But the thing is, if you want to write, if it's something you really want to do, you pick yourself up again and keep at it.

It's like raiding. You go in expecting to wipe the first few times. If it's a heroic boss maybe you'll go through dozens of attempts before the boss dies. Some people will down the boss right away, being some kind of wunderkind, but for the vast majority of us it comes down to a lot of preparation and practice.

Ted said...

That's a really good way to think of it, Laurie. Thanks for your comment.

Mazil said...

When reading Ted's questions, I thought I had no idea. But, after reading Laurie's comment, "practice" seems such a great answer.

Practice, preparation, hard work, perseverance...

And regularly reviewing your progress, so you can reassure yourself that there is improvement, however gradual, and take encouragement from that.

Thanks for the link to Miss Snark's First Victim! I came across the blog some time last year, but hadn't returned. I definitely need to read more critiquing, to better understand elements of writing and how they work together (and how to best convey that to others).

I feel sheepish about my first paragraphs after reading those on Miss Snark's, AND after reading those posted on the Saucy Wenches forums... *blush* *le sigh*