Wednesday, 24 July 2013

On Self-Loathing

I once, in a fit of "wisdom*," said that a story wasn't done until you had hated it so long that you came out the other side and liked it again. That's kind of a silly thing to say because, if you really hate what you're writing, you should probably reconsider writing it. But it happens to touch on something that I—like many authors, or so I have been made to understand—deal with a lot: Getting in your own damn way.

I can't speak for anyone else (It would be cool if I could, but I've always tried to maintain that this site is about an individual's process rather than those of all writers), but I get in my own way a lot. I get lazy. I get busy. I get preoccupied. I dislike my work—be it a word choice, a sentence, a chapter, or a character or plot-point—and even if that's only for a moment it's enough to get me thinking and excited about another project. And I think a lot of writers are like this, too. Or, god, at least I hope they are.

Otherwise, I'm just all screwed up.

Self-loathing is just part of my process at this point. I get to a certain part and I start to dislike what I'm doing, so I strive to make it better. The circumstances under which I start to hate the work—and the ways in which I might respond to that—change with the project, so it's hard to really talk about getting through this stage of writing (I suppose that you might just want to go back and look at the last couple months of posts for the most recent example) but it's something that does happen and almost always gets resolved favorably.

I wonder about the "why" sometimes, though. I mean, I don't like hating my work or torturing myself. I'm just not into that. But this is something that seems to plague a lot of writers—especially when they're just starting out—and it's the kind of thing that does make you wonder. We're the sort of people who are so confident in our ability to create and present stories, characters, the whole lot...That we will gladly spend time and money trying to sell our work for public consumption.

That takes a lot of faith. Maybe a fair stretch of ego. Those ain't exactly doubtin' tendencies. So why?

I think that some of it does have to do with the fact that we're all such strivers. We're looking to get out there and be noticed, and on some level we are terrified that we aren't good enough. Deep down we know that there are thousands of people out there just like us and they're going to be those chosen for publication, so why bother?

And that's just how it starts. Before too long, it becomes, "Oh, well why should I write today when I can just read this book by this author I like and will never be as good as?" Then it's, "Ah, man, why should I write or read when there are video games/TV/movies?"

And then finally it's, "Crap, dude. I ain't even gonna get out of bed."

And that's the moment when you DIE. ALONE AND UNLOVED AND UNPUBLISHED.

I...I might be projecting here. Also: Exaggerating. But, yeah, that's basically what I'm up against every time I try to assemble some work. And I've got to relearn how to cope with it every time. It's more than a little crazy, guys. Or at least it feels that way.

But, like I said, it's part of the process at this point. Just another obstacle that I put in my own way every once in a while so I can knock it the hell over. I'm not looking for sympathy or commiseration (but if you're a creative and you deal with similar issues, why not share it in the comments, eh?), just trying to get the rambling craziness of this part of things out on paper.

After all, isn't that part of what this blog is about?

 

-Sean

* "Wisdom" is only maybe code for "drunkenness." I don't have any recollection of how or why I said this—just that I did. And I know that I said it because I wrote it down and then made up a twitter account based on it. I was in college, though, so I was probably trying to sound clever and artistic and impress a girl. I don't know. So, you know what? Come up with your own scenario to amuse yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Oh God, this unholy stage of the work; it is a devil unlike any other in the act of writing. I, too, believed that I was alone in this, because I swear that no other writer can have a streak of hatred for his/her own work a wide as mine. There wouldn't be book stores, self-publishing outfits, etc.

    There are two distinct periods in a project's lifespan where I will slip into this mode: the first is at about 20,000 words, when I've started to move the story along. I'll probably look back at what is already in the first major chunk of the book, and say something like "What the hell happened here? I thought we were getting along, guys!" It's at this point where those other books/movies/usually video games because I'm a lazy twat (who also writes about video games...I don't know why), and I will either slow production, or become very frustrated and scream at my manuscript, notebooks, whatever music I'm spinning because somehow it's a Norwegian dark music act's fault that I can't make people who don't exist do things that get them into trouble, and become immediately worried that I've been wasting the bulk of my life doing something that will never come to fruition, and will ultimately torched in effigy to my failure as the creative person that I always pretend to be my God this comment is coming out like a giant incoherent rant at six a.m. did I mention I haven't had coffee yet?

    The second round of self hatred comes in the first bout of revisions when I read through the book for a second time to mark it up. This is when I actually consider my career to be dead, and all dreams of agents, publishers, and yes I'm a narcissist but book signings die like so many electrocuted pigeons, because I can't escape the thought that no one in their right mind will ever read the crap that I spin, no matter how interesting the back cover blurb sounds.

    However...there is hope. There is always hope. I'm about to begin the third draft of my current project, a short serialized near-future cyberpunk thing that I'm trying to stay excited about. Because if I actually couldn't write, someone who is listening to my rambling on blogs and facebook and the like about the work that I do would say "look, you have the writing ability of so many blind chimps" and I would either persist because, again, I'm egotistical and narcissistic enough to believe that they are wrong, or I would actually have to shelf my work, and be happy with the fact that I did at least write two novels in my life. That's more than some people ever get.

    Okay...wow, that turned out longer than I thought.

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