Monday, September 7, 2009

Labouring on Labour Day

Welcome to the last long weekend of the summer, a day traditionally spent at picnics, fairs or some other sunny outdoor activity filled with bustle of crowds, the smell of popcorn and the joyous laughter of tots.

I am spending a greater part of the day hunched over my laptop editing and rewriting my most recent short story and let's just say's not going well. I'm now at the point of thinking 'why did you think you could write?' and dragging up every self-doubt that's ever crossed my mind in the middle of the night.

Why is it that writers (or me at any rate) are so quick to criticize themselves but so slow to praise? If I'm pleased with my efforts - if I've written something I find funny or I like a particular phrase - I quickly say to myself 'Okay fine... move on'. But I will linger over criticism like it's a fine chocolate souffle. It always appears to me that once I fix one aspect five others cry for my attention. Can't the characters be more colourful? Are they too colourful? Are they much of a muchness? Does the plot move too quickly? Too slowly? Or is it just so unspeakably dull that no one would ever get past page two?

You see my dilemma...

What floors me is that I put myself into this position on purpose. No one put a gun to my head and said 'Be A Writer'. I must need my head examined.


  1. I find it's best if writers don't examine their heads too closely. Just look at how you're tearing into your editing. Just smile and know that you are who you are and you do what your do and you'd rather be doing that than tons of other things.

    Straight From Hel

  2. My twin brother has this same self-judgement. And yet, I find that many of the best writers are the ones who are most self-conscious.

    Luckily for me, I've been having good days lately (as you saw on today's blog post, haha!); but they came on the heels of some pretty bad writers block predicated on my alleged suckage.

    Key word being "alleged".

    Go look at your special script. Not to make you feel worse, but to remind you just how worthy of greatness you really are. If that doesn't work, go take out your royalty checks.


  3. It seems you and I suffer from the same affliction. Probably typical of writers, I would imagine, although that makes it no less horrid. Overall, though, I'm glad I focus more on my errors, because that means I see them. What's bad are those writers who never seem to find anything wrong in their own work.

  4. In the first instance, I’m not believing for a second there’s anything wrong with your work. Oh, like all of us, you’ll find things here and there to polish up as you look back on it, but, for the most part, I’ll wager it’s fine.

    Secondly, like Jack, I’ve suffered from this, too. One of the things I’m gonna do to try to fix the problem is find a critique group. I’ve never been in one and never liked the idea of one, but, I’m now seeing some useful aspects of it. I thought I’d try it anyway. So, a good critique partner is a thought to slay the self-doubt dragon.

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  5. That's a discouraging feeling, seeing just the parts that need improvement. I think we're all insecure with our work. I feel so much more chipper after someone else reads my ms and laughs at all the right places. I get to a point where I lose perspective on the document completely.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  6. All of your words of encouragement are gratefully acknowledged. Sorry for the self-pity and I resolve to turn a new page tomorrow!

  7. It's so easy to pick on ourselves because we don't fight back. Prepare a mantra of self-praise and encouragement, Elspeth, and start chanting like crazy when your picky self begins to criticize.

  8. The reality, Elspeth, is that nobody else is going to be as critical of your work as you are. So even as you pick those tiny bits that irritate your, remember that it is just that your standards are high, not that your work is not upto the mark.

  9. I've found I write best when I analyze myself less and focus on the story more. The more I stop to think, the more I doubt. Of course, when you're in the revision process, it's at its worst. For me, writing is easy... Revising is self-punishment!

  10. Some great comments here that I could also use. It's hard not to self-doubt. But I also think it helps us edit our work.


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