This is a topic that arguably, I have no right to talk about. I am as insecure as they come when getting around to believing in my work. But then I remind myself of a few things. Things that most writers need to keep in mind. So here is my two cents:
– Writing anything, especially a book to completion is an accomplishment. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have told people that I am a writer and they say, “Oh, I want to write a book.” Or “I have this idea that I haven’t finished yet.” Getting through one, even if you finish and decide it’s not good enough for publishing, you are on the right track. A track that not many people are brave enough or persistent enough to travel.
– Not knowing where your current work in progress is going is perfectly okay. I am the kind of writer who attacks a story from the side. I often start with a scene from the middle of the book. Sometimes I don’t know how it begins until I reach the end, then I map out all the connections between characters from there. Trying to work out all the details from the very start is just too damn daunting for me.
– For every person who dislikes your story, there will be someone else who loves it. Half the people reading your work and giving it bad reviews might not be into that genre to begin with. Books and stories are a lot like physical attraction to various people. No one likes just skinny people, muscular men, curvy women, etc. Tastes vary in all aspects of life, including stories. I just finished reading a very popular contemporary novel that was well written and a good read, but very forgettable to me. Others devoured it and gave it rave reviews. But here’s the thing… I’m not that into contemporary work. So my opinion of it is subjective.
– How you feel about your work is more important than what everyone else thinks. Sure, you need to make sales and other people need to enjoy it too. But that energy you get from writing, the feeling of doing something worth while, and putting time and effort into an idea that excites you is more important than anything else. At least in my opinion.
– Don’t judge your work by its first draft… because that is a kiss of death. I heard it once said (and this is totally and completely true), that good writing happens in draft two or three. Not the first draft. The first draft is supposed to look awful, feel awful, and make your cringe when you look over it. But the most important thing to get to get first draft done and on paper. Out of your head and in a place where you can mold it into something beautiful. So stop deleting those scenes you don’t like or erasing the whole damn thing! Just make a separate folder for pieces that might need to go or that you can revisit. I have an entire folder entitled “Deleted Bits,” because sometimes there are days when I get done writing and think, “I can’t really see where this fits, if it does at all.” But that is the point. You don’t need to have those answers right away.
– Failure is not a bad thing. I have plenty of works that I never completed or that I got bad peer reviews on. And it doesn’t matter. Because writing is like exercising a muscle. But instead of lifting weights, you are exercising your mind. And it will get stronger even though maybe your last two or three stories weren’t something worth showing the world. That muscle is still getting there and continuing to build upon itself. One of my old writing teachers put it perfectly when she said that writing is like one of those Chinese building constructions with the bamboo around it for support. Sometimes those buildings collapse during the process or just fall through. But the bamboo is often still there, standing tall and strong. The works you don’t like are that building, and your writing skills are the bamboo. They are still strong and getting stronger even though the building may have collapsed. What you have left is a skill that will remain and just get better.
Hell of a pep talk from someone who could take something from her own advice, but these are the things I feel writers tend to forget. Including yours truly. So here they are for you out and in the open. Remind yourself you are awesome. And we all need the occasional self-pat on the back.