So, a couple of posts ago, I promised I would write about how you’re not that awesome.
Let me explain.
Sometimes a writer gets going on a roll, and holy crap! it feels good. The words drop out of you into the keyboard, the characters pop off the screen, and the whole texture and warp and weft of the plot come together so sweet it’s like you didn’t even write anything, just opened up and let it all pour through you from the existential beyond where characters and all things make-believe hang out, just waiting for you to call them up to duty.
How can something that feels so amazing be anything but, well…amazing? Hey, man, sometimes it really, really is. But sometimes…sometimes it’s an exercise in self-indulgence, and its honey-sweet flavor that tastes so good in your mouth is really gross to other people, like NutraSweet sprinkled all over Superhero-flavored ice cream.
It really sucks when that happens. So many days of writing feel like a grind, and you have to pull the sentences out like a parasitic worm, one tiny millimeter at a time, and even then you feel like you didn’t get it, you left some of it in there to fester. So when you have one of those wide-open days full of promise and sparkle and screw work, this isn’t work, it’s aaaalll play! Savor the feeling. Hold it close. Then keep grinding at the story until you have your first draft, and…
Let it sit. Most experts say for six weeks. Then comes the editing. And then…you might find that you have to cut out all that stuff that seemed so perfect, more perfect than any of the rest of the story put together when it was coming out of you. ‘Cause it just doesn’t fit, or it isn’t any good, or it’s extraneous.
So my question is, why do we have those days at all, if they aren’t effervescent gifts from the muses on high? I think it’s because muses aren’t on high at all, and they don’t give gifts, they demand sacrifices. My muse is a bald guy in a pit. And he’s sweaty and a bit off-putting.
Anyway…try not to get too caught up in the bubbles. Even the very best of masterful writers don’t think they are so great…not really. There is deep strength to modesty. A solid grounding in humility. The trick is to not sink below that to despair, to “I basically suck.” Because you probably don’t, and even if you do…you got nowhere to go but up!
Writers are a special breed: gluttons for punishment, willing to put our snail feelers out for acceptance, only to whip them back in again when we get burned with rejection and criticism. This post really is encouragement disguised as dark discouragement. If you read it down to here, I’d like to leave you with this: I know I said you’re not that awesome, but I probably lied! I just wrote that to get your attention.
Ride the high of those muse-gifted days, and understand it’s the time itself, the deep satisfaction of getting it down on paper, or on screen, that’s valuable. Then, sacrifice it to the muse if you have to. Edit down to the real story. But…maybe you could keep a separate file, for those snippets you had to cut away.