Confidence has never been one of my virtues. Despite the fact that I have had some personal success in my life, I always feel like I’ve accomplished this through a combination of luck and deception. If people knew how horrible/lazy/uninformed I really was, I’d never have succeeded. If people knew how terrible I really was at writing, I’d never get the compliments or kudos I’ve gotten for it. I am the Great Pretender, pulling the wool over people’s eyes in hopes of attaining what small honors I can garner along the way. So, yeah…confidence in my abilities to actually do things has never been a strong suit.
I’ve been thinking about possibly, kinda-sorta-maybe, joining a critique group. My logical robot brain says that it is a good idea to have other writers look at my work and help guide me toward doing this writing-thing well. My looking-glass cathedral of an ego says “No! I’ll never be able to fool them into thinking I’m one of them!” or “What if they’re mean?!?” So, I dither…and creatively wither.
My fears were reinforced this weekend by some critiques I received for a story I had submitted to a contest. My robot brain thought that this was an excellent idea…so rarely do I get to hear critique from someone other than The Wife (not that she’s a bad editor, but, well, she would never hurt me even when I need to be). My inner looking-glass cringed in anticipation of the slaughter to come.
Some of the folks really enjoyed the story. Some…definitely did not. Most had good things to say about it, but did note that the ending was not done well. Further, some complained that the premise/setting of my story was not particularly original. But, as I said, most had something to good to say about the story and some even took the time to say that I should keep trying. My robot brain was pleased…in the balance, the story performed as well as I thought it would. The criticism of the ending was probably on the mark as I wasn’t really sure how to end it myself. But my looking-glass was marred by the ones who were less than complimentary. Every time I looked at the core of my writer-self, I saw the blemish. I saw the criticism. Balanced assessment? Ha! No…they hated me. Not the story…but me. Because I tried to fool them and they would not be fooled.
Obviously, I may not be ready for a critique group. Then again, will I ever be if I don’t jump into it?
So, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. Am I fooling myself with this writing thing? Because I certainly didn’t fool them. I feel like I should do something about the criticism…change the story, re-work it, make it more appealing. Another part of me says that the best thing to do about this is to set this one aside and dig for gold in another tale. Write more and learn more. Eventually ability and talent will merge with timing and luck and I’ll hit pay-dirt.
But, lately, the loudest voice tells me that I’m wasting my time…and the time of others.
I’ve not given up yet, but this week has been a dark one for this ordinarily optimistic hack-writer.
I’ve come across a couple of blog entries that have helped a little…the one consolation of being a writer is that I’m certainly not alone in the struggle. One is this gem from Mette Ivie Harrison writing at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show entitled “All Writers are Thieves“. In it, Harrison speaks on the history of writing and how “originality” is actually a more modern concept in storytelling, that telling a twice-told tale well has always been the most important aspect of storytelling. Writers constantly steal ideas, spin-off of tropes and clichés, and create something different from what has come before. Lack of an “original” idea is fine; creativity comes from what you bring to it with your unique voice.
Make sure that you let the ideas sit in your stewpot for long enough that they’ve become infused with a lot of other things that make them unique. Add a twist. Put two ideas together that haven’t been put together before. Write well.
Carolyn Kaufman, blogging at QueryTracker.net, reminded me that the primary attributes of the successful writer are not talent or inspiration, but confidence and determination. Most writers face rejection after rejection after rejection. Some are savaged by critics. Some are even derided by their families for their ambitions–fortunately, that is not one of my problems. In fact, were it not for friends and family, I’d not even have what little belief I have in my writerly abilities. But…