Monday, September 26, 2005

Fear of success?

I've been talking to a few other writers I know, and something interesting came up. I had mentioned I was worried my lack of progress or the slow pace at which I seemed to be finishing certain chapters was a subconscious attempt to keep myself from completing a draft of the story. If the story doesn't end, it's really hard to do anything with it, right?

The individual I was talking to agreed that sometimes they feel like that as well. It's not unusual to encounter people who have been working/reworking things for a few years. (Or it's just no unusual for me to know these people, take your pick. ^_^; ) So what is it about writers—or at least the ones I've been in contact with—and self-sabotage? Why don't we want to ever finish anything?

My theory is that maybe we have trouble letting go. Creating characters and a world, I think we grow attached and protective of that creation. That is, we don't want to give it away. Not because we don't want to share—but out of fear that someone will say something hurtful.

I took fine arts in college as foundation study for the graphic design program I graduated from, and I remember how difficult group critique used to be. I had never taken fine arts, so I didn't know what to expect. It felt like everything that was said about the piece was a reflection of me. If there was something flawed in the work, it meant I was flawed as a person because I had created the work.

You'd be surprised how many people think this way.

Another art student told me that we have learn to distance ourselves from our work. What is said about the work, is not an attack on us personally. I think this can be said for writing as well.

It took a few years of group critique, but with each one my confidence rose. My ability to distance and look at things objectivity also increased. I began to see how the critiques were meant to show us how to clarify and improve the work in order to strengthen our intended message/reaction.

The issue here is that I put pressure on myself. No one else but me. I have it in my head that this must brilliant and amazing and the greatest piece of writing I have ever produced, because that is what will get it published and noticed by a public that has lost interest in the written word. And it has to be that right now. If it isn't, I have failed.

So I get overwhelmed because I forget what should be the easiest thing to remember. Just because the draft isn't perfect doesn't mean the story is horrible. That's why it's a draft, because it isn't polished and perfected.

It's like creating a brand for a client. Now, it is possible to spend an immense amount of time "perfecting" the first letter of the brandtype, but if you don't get past the first letter you will have anything to show the client. It would be like:

Client: "Well, I'm eager to see what you've got."
Designer: "I worked really hard on this, I know you're going to like it."
Client: "Uh...what is that?"
Designer: "That's the first letter of your company's name."
Client: "You spent two weeks on a letter?"
Designer: "Yes, and it's perfect."

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I lost touch with that. I stopped just writing and started worrying about what I was writing. As if as soon as I hit save every literary critic in the world was going to read what I just written.

Oh, and a question to those critics: is it true those who can't, critic? Or is that just the bitter reaction of authors to a bad review?

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