I’ve had a story bouncing around in my head for a while.
It’s not sci-fi but a sort of crime thriller detective story.
I’ve been wanting to turn it into a book for some time.
I’ve been listening to Larry Correa’s Writer Dojo podcast and reading writer’s help guides.
There are lots of articles and posts on how to accept criticism and be open minded about what other people say about your work.
What I want to know is how do you get past that point where you write several pages, look at it, say to yourself “this is utter dog shit, who the fuck wants to read this garbage,” delete it all, then tell yourself that it’s not worth wasting any more effort because nobody will ever want to publish this and if you self publish it you can throw all that money straight into the trash?
I have no desire or illusions if grandeur to be a professional writer. In fact, the more I read of Larry’s blog about what being a professional writer entails, the less I want that.
It also helps that I really like my day job and am very good at it.
I just want to tell my story and if I make enough money to pay off a loan on a used car will consider that a victory.
But I hate every word I put down with such vehemence that I can even get that far.
I almost envy the writers who are so egotistical that they can’t take criticism because at least they believe in themselves.
A professional lifetime spent in calculated risk aversion is the worst thing you can do to yourself if you want to be creative.
5 thoughts on “What to do when you your own worst enemy”
I have found that anyone with any kind of talent is thier own worse critic.. myself included( show winning custom paint, chrome plating/polishing shop) We know where all the little blemishes are. Best thing I found is show your work to another person and let them look at it as if it was thiers.
And keep at it, no matter how crap YOU think it is.
Yeah… and then there’s the problem of over-engineering the story.
Some years ago, having heard about this NaNoWriMo thing and imagining that I’d have a fair bit of free time that November, I had a vague concept for a short, flashy, action-packed novel – a textual comic book, if you will.
So I started outlining it. The outline I came up with kept wanting to morph into the outline, not of a textual comic book, but of a 600-page Victorian novel with great sweeping back-story arcs reaching back (at least) to the 18th Century and detailed genealogy for everyone including the hero’s girlfriend’s cat (dagnab Viking genes). And I hadn’t even gotten to the action yet….
Maybe one of these years I’ll have some actual idle time, and the outline for the outsized and overly-complex novel can become background for actual stories. (Put The Silmarillion on the back burner indefinitely and write The Hobbit instead.)
Except that all that world-building was rooted in a dark and cynical vision of the post-2001, but very pre-2020, real world – a world that no longer exists and apparently never did. My over-the-top villain has gone from unrealistic to a failure of imagination.
How do you get past it? Same way as everyone else. Curby is right. We are all our own worst critics. The faster you realize that, the more enjoyment you will get from whatever you choose to do.
First of all, stop reading everything you can about what you want to do. This is writing a story, not getting a phd. What works/worked for them, worked for them. What works for you is what will work for you.
Next, realize even the best writers out there have dozens if not hundreds of stories that will never see the light of day. It is very rare when a writer has a hit straight out of the gate.
Finally, realize that it is the story that counts, not the words. (Wait, what????) Seriously. I attended a talk by Jeffery Deaver (of Bone Collector fame) about how to write a murder mystery. He said that when he outlined the Bone Collector, there were about 180 sticky notes stuck to the wall before he even started writing. The plot, along with all twists was laid out on the posty notes. The novel was the postie notes. The book was the filling between the postie notes.
One more note. Read a book from Scott Adams called LoserThink. Yes, he is the Dilber guy. This book is about how thinking like a loser will make you one, and how you can identify loser thinking, and how to avoid it.
I think I’ve put deliberate effort into cultivating loser think in myself.
I am a very specialized and trained expert in my field. I am annoyed with the people who fall into the trap of “peopole who are successful or knowledgeable in one field think they are successful or knowledgeable in all fields.” I have deliberately tried to eschew this behavior. As a result, things that are not in my specialized field, I am both totally ignorant of and scared to pursue being a rank amateur.
Maintaining balance in such areas does take some effort!
On the one hand, there’s hubris – “I get paid a lot for speaking words written by others, therefore I’m the voice of authority on every subject!”
On the other, there’s narrow focus on one’s field of expertise, and fear of venturing outside of it. Making the transition from suburban nerdboy (with somewhat eclectic interests) to novice farmer, I was at least partly aware of the extent of my ignorance (the Universe being as near infinite as makes no odds, ignorance is of course unbounded); I’ve dealt with most of the known unknowns by now, and am attempting to cope with many of the unknown unknowns. There’s always more to learn, and I’ll inevitably look like an idiot from time to time, but that’s life for ya.
And, even within my field (embedded systems, not the weed patch), sometimes a fair dose of humility is called for. On occasion, I’ve solved an obstinate problem by the Socratic method, i.e., pestering the client’s engineers with increasingly specific questions until they solve the problem themselves. I come in with a fair bit of general subject-matter expertise, but largely ignorant of the specifics of the project, and in the process of learning those specifics jolt those who do know the specifics out of whatever rut they’ve gotten stuck in.
Addendum: What I’m getting at here is that not being afraid to appear foolish from time to time can be advantageous even in one’s own field, and almost always when venturing into a new one.
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