Monday, April 12, 2010

Just One More Thing...

Writing is like laundry - it's never finished. The laundry lesson I've learned over the years as I've noticed the gleaming empty interior of the laundry basket never stays that way for more than a few hours. Suddenly, kaboom - there's a pair of jeans - or pyjamas - or fifteen towels.


Writing seems to be a creature of a similar stripe. There's always more editing. Or re-writing. Or purging. Or fifteenth guessing.

This must be why deadlines were invented. Also, why so many writers end up having substance abuse issues.

Then there's that always delicious moment when you're sure what you've written is the worst drivel that ever made its way onto a computer screen.

The characters which you loved now seem flat. The dialogue which you remember as sparkling is now tired and riddled with cliches. The climax is banal and the conclusion would cure insomnia.

Welcome to my world.

I know this is just a phase - but I'd like it to pass, please. I've got all those little whisperings in my head hissing, "This is awful. How much time have you taken to write this? Take up another career. Welding looks interesting."

As I jump about the blogosphere I visit blog after blog of writers happily chirping about how well everything is going. They've just had a new idea and are already half way through their first draft. A new character just appeared whom they love. Oh look, another award. Oh look, another project. Oh look, accolades overflow.

I'm finding this just a tad discouraging. The hissing is getting louder.

Meanwhile, I shall fight the overwhelming urge to hit the delete button. I'll do laundry instead.


  1. I like to post about failures as well as successes. I've had some real flops regarding book signings and other events. Hopefully others can learn from my mistakes and save themselves some of the consequences.

    Stephen Tremp

  2. The worst thing is that UNLIKE laundry, those terrible moments in writing don't even smell good. I am totally with you, Elspeth. Sometimes I look at what I read and am blown away by how poopy it sounds. Luckily, every single time I've resisted the urge to hit 'delete,' I've come back in a few weeks and found it fixable.

    Don't get discouraged--your discontent is a great sign that you are growing. And we're all right here cheering for you.


  3. Stephen; It IS nice to read posts that admit not everything is sunshine all the time. I enjoy your posts very much - not to mention how much I've learned about science.

    Wendy; Thanks so much for the cheer and the hug. I'm grateful the laundry that is literally poopy is in the past (kids are teenagers now), but right now I want the crispy writing that Martha Stewart would salivate over. Oh, that level of brilliance in my laundry wouldn't hurt either.

  4. I hear those whispers when I read my first drafts. But first drafts are supposed to be bad!

    We writers are an insecure bunch. It comes with the territory. But we persevere!

  5. Elspeth - I honestly don't think I'm ever really done with what I write, so I've had to learn to drown out those voices. It's quite hard, though, and it's one of the reasons my WIP isn't going as quickly as I want it to go. I keep thinking it could be so much better. You are not alone...

  6. Stephanie; It is all about insecurity, isn't it?

    Margot; I'm so glad I'm not alone! None of my writing goes as quickly as I want it to go. I need to learn to silence this infernal hissing.

  7. I agree, it's a never-ending process. The trick is being able to see when you're only making things different, not better.

    And IMHO, anything beats doing laundry!

  8. Terry; You've hit the nail on the head. Sometimes different is not better - just different.

  9. Elspeth, I don't know why it works that way, but it always seems like everyone else is having a great day when we feel like something the cat dragged in. I'm going to send you some warm huggy vibes and hope you zoom through this phase and feel good about your work as soon as you can.

  10. If it makes you feel any better, I admit it. I am currently stuck. I've come to the section in my book where a character suddenly becomes important and have had the horrible realization that he has been a cardboard-cut-out cartoon character up until now. I have to figure out who he is so I can get this thing moving again!
    There are so many ups and downs with writing, but that's OK. The downs just make the ups that much more powerful.
    Hang in there! And keep writing.

  11. Well, you're right, it is a temporary thing. But, imagine experiencing all these doubts just as your book is published! I *know* I'm unleashing on the world the winner of the "Worst Written and Most Glaringly Amateurish" book award.

    Best, Galen.

  12. Patricia; Thank you for the warm fuzzy vibes. I'm hoping I start to zoom through this soon. Sooner would be better.

    Kit; Thanks so much for sharing that! Isn't it awful when that happens? And yet, you've discovered new possibilities which are always exciting. Best of luck - and you keep writing too!

    Galen; Bless you sir. Right now, my manuscript would probably be in contention for that award. This is NOT giving me hope - but it is giving me laughter. Thanks.

  13. What a wonderful analogy. You are not alone – I have had many of those “delicious” moments. Hang in there, as you said, “it’s just a phase.”

  14. I'm in kind of a worried spot about my writing right now. And then my laptop went belly up, so I've got to wait weeks to work on it again. Not good!!

  15. Sometimes I think we have to have those unsettled feelings to make the good times that much better. Besides what else can make laundry seem like a good thing if not those bad phases? :)

    Thoughts in Progress

  16. Jane; I keep repeating that over and over - "It's just a phase, it's just a phase..."

    Jemi; Oh NO!!! Here's hoping your laptop is back in your lap in record time.

    Mason; What a warming thought. This must mean I'm in for some good times. Here's hoping!

  17. I feel for you! I go through the "everything I write is drivel" stage about every three days. It's a pendulum: "this is great!" --"I should stick to me day job" --"I wrote more than my quota!"--"I'm never going to finish this book in my lifetime"... I tend to blog on the upbeat days, when everything looks rosy. No reason to depress anyone else, but you can rest assured EVERYONE is just like you.

  18. Everyone has those days. I think writing is such an open ended thing, there is no best so we're always a bit less, it's the way the game works. It keeps us on our toes. Stick it out- there are enough welders.


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