Thursday, March 12, 2009

Inadequacy

Alright, it's time to just say it. Maybe owning up to my current problems, however embarrassing they may be, will help me get over it. Because I've tried just about everything else.

I'm not nearly as strong as I act. My inner editor, the insidious AAC, has commandeered my brain. I can't bring myself to think my writing is more than crap, let alone good. (Michelle calls this Isuckitis...well named.)

Take this sentence: "I couldn't think of anything to say to her."

Translated in my head: "Crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap."

I've edited my brains out. Cut 10k from my MS. I look back, and it still isn't there, and then I start to think it's NEVER going to be there. And why am I doing this again? Why do I want this? It's just a silly childhood dream to be published. I don't need all this frustration—this is why I was afraid to try in the first place! This sucks. It's NOT fun anymore. Not even close.

And yet I'm sitting here with my MS pages cradled in my lap, tearing up because I love this story so much and I can't seem to do it justice. I jot down another word change, cross out a sentence, combine a paragraph, write a "better" description...I just keep going...why am I going? Why am I editing when even the changes don't quite make it what it deserves to be? How in the world can I keep putting myself through this?

I am inadequate; it's the truth. Always will be (bear with me here, I have a point). I'm sure every writer has felt that way at one point—probably more than once. My fingers can't type the perfect words to represent the people and worlds in my head. I try so very hard, knowing I'll never quite get there. Oh, I know I'll get better, but that unreachable perfection, those exact words I want, will never grace my pages without a considerable amount of pain, fear, work, and error. And even after blood red pages, it still won't be "perfect."

I could give up...hell, I should give up, shouldn't I? I'm grasping for an unattainable ideal. Because let's face it, even if I work my whole life I will never, ever write the "perfect" book. I will always see a flaw—there will always be a flaw. Crap. I'm human. (Even if I pretend to be a cyborg.)

Then I realize that my writing is just like me: a living, breathing thing that grows everyday. Sometimes I can be beautiful, sweet, kind—near perfect. Other times I'm ugly, rude, hateful. My writing is the same way. I'm a literal work in progress, and my Creator hasn't given up on me. I shouldn't give up on what I've created either. If he can accept my "best effort," then surely I can accept that of my own flawed writing.

18 comments:

  1. Natalie, don't give up. We all feel like that at times, as Lady Glamis wrote on her blog. I've been feeling like that for a while. I try to take comfort that even writers I really love felt the same way...

    (http://taramayastales.blogspot.com/2009/02/one-true-thing.html)

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  2. Even the most famous have felt that way. Don't let it get you down. It can be very frustrating. I know. I'm very frustrated with my ms right now. It's crazy how we rip into ourselves when we aren't perfect. If it will make you feel better you can read some of mine and see how imperfect it is. Bleh. Let others read and help. It is really nice to have a sounding board sometimes. I can't imagine writing something as quickly as you have written this. Editing takes time. and layers.

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  3. Natalie, Natalie! You poor thing, you're working yourself to death!

    I know the feeling, girl. Believe me, I do. Sometimes as I'm writing, I'll just pull my hands away from the keyboard, because I feel like my stuff sucks SO bad.

    But, you said it best, our novels are works in progress. They are living things that have to be slaved over, adored, gently controlled, and sometimes, left in time out until they start acting better. But, you need to know that you are a good writer, and your book is fantastic. If it wasn't, you wouldn't be in this situation.

    *slides a carton of ice cream across the table.* Maybe you should take a little break. Just until you feel better.

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  4. Can I join you for the ice cream?

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  5. Oh, my gosh. You just wrote exactly what I was feeling today. I was reading my MS today and looking over some agent "suggestions" and I thought, I can't, I just can't do this. I don't know how. I've given it all I have. But, after a prayer and a deep breath I dove in (again) and I can. And I know you can too. I love Tosh as well.

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  6. This writing stuff is so humbling and yet character building at the same time. You seem so introspective and that's such a positive quality! Your thoughts are beautifully expressed here.

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  7. Perhaps this is because Ninjas is...the one.

    You want it to be so good — and it is.

    Right now you seem to be languishing in the slipstream shadow of your own previously zooming vehicle, and if it's any consoaltion, if life was a big ole version of Wii Mario Kart (please don't gasp you mean it's not?, I'd be right there next to you, being dragged along by Bowser in a choking cloud of exhaust fumes. And who's that behind Mario? And Wario? And Schmario? Half your regular followers, by the look of it. Sigh.

    You may recall, I was supposed to be done by October.

    October!!!.

    Then Christmas.

    Then January.

    And I seem to be stuck on the same sort of thing, ie that I just can't seem to get some of the newer stuff as good as my already written 'best bits'. And nothing's hanging together.

    Frustrating? Oh yes. And I lack your cyborg powers.

    So I've stopped trying too hard. My final chapter is slapdash, but it's happening.

    On! On! On!

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  8. Preach it, sister. I really have no uplifting advice other than I know how you feel. So -- yeah.

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  9. Dear Natalie,

    I am a picture book author with 8 published books under my belt, but MAN OH MAN can I identify with what you are going through! I started reading "writing" blogs to find some inspiration....because right now, I feel like I suck at this writing thing, too! You don't know how much better it makes me feel to know that others feel the same.

    My advice, if you want it, is to put it away for 2 weeks. DO NOT LOOK at it for this amount of time. I mean, think about the term "revision". RE-vision.....as in RE-seeing something with new eyes. I guarantee you that if you leave it be for 2 weeks, when you re-read it, you'll realize how much it doesn't suck.....it will also help you tighten-up what needs tightening.

    In the mean time, you can start jotting notes about new books, write some "pretend" opening pages for books, and reconnect with why you love writing.

    I wish I could say that once you get published, your ACC becomes better behaved.

    Sorry. Doesn't happen.

    Shelley (the storyqueen)

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  10. You know how I feel about all this. Thanks for a great chat last night. I know you will push through and make Ninjas fantastic. You have it in you, and you know it. :)

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  11. Tara, definitely not giving up:) As tempting as it is. I'm too dang close to stop now!

    Lois, lol, you send me your MS and I bet you ten bucks I'd think it was lovely and had no clue about the "imperfections" you claim. Funny how that works, huh.

    Renee, you dear. I did have ice cream, and it made me feel better. Rocky Road—poetic, no?

    Mom, big hug back;)

    Kierst, pull up a chair. I always have a stock of ice cream.

    Kasie, press on! Staring at that first page is overwhelming. Get half way and things start to look up.

    Candice, I have definitely learned more about myself as a person from writing.

    Whirl, lol, I need to play more video games. Seriously, I used to play all the time. Ah, Mario Kart. Hang in there on your work. Not every part can be a beautiful bit, then there'd be no comparison and they'd all look the same.

    Sara, thanks. It's nice to know we've all been there:)

    Shelley, thanks for visiting! It is strangely comforting to know that even the published suffer from this. I am about 11 pages from finishing this revision, and you better bet I'm tucking it away for a little. I need a breather.

    Michelle, dear, thank you. I guess I know I have it in me too, because I'm still going. I'm determined, no matter the pain. rawr.

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  12. I feel like that ALL the time Natalie. Sometimes I'll be working away on a chapter getting pages and pages down and then I'll suddenly look back at it and think, God it's all crap!

    And I almost cried when I read your words about loving the story and just not feeling like you're capable of doing it justice. I feel like I have this incredible story in my head but sometimes it's as if I'm trying to convey it in German - I just can't find the right words and it's SO frustrating.

    All we can do it keep working at it and try to remember that every day that we write we become better writers and one day we will begin to be able to do, at least parts of, that story justice.

    Thanks for the honest words! You're not alone, and remember that the thing that separates you from so many others out there is that most people do give up when it gets hard - you don't and that's why one day you'll be very successful at this.

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  13. Natalie,

    I understand a lot of what you're feeling. I think when you start feeling like this, when it becomes overwhelming, you should step away for a few days. Don't write. Don't edit. Don't do anything but focus on your family and the other important things in your life.

    Stop beating yourself up, too, would you? No, none of your manuscripts are perfect. So what? There is no such thing as perfect. It doesn't matter what you write or how you write it, there will always be critics saying you didn't do this or that correctly. Screw 'em!!

    Get your stories to a place where you like it, love it ... or at least you can live with it.

    I think you are experiencing what golfers call the yips. You're so worried about the outcome, about getting published, that you can't get to that point of feeling satisfied.

    Take a few days to clear your mind and then when you return to the MS, give yourself a strict editing deadline. Then, be done with it.

    I have an idea that may help you get over this kind of anxiety.

    Have you ever done any freelance writing? Newspaper, magazine, blog, etc...? You might give it a shot. After you have done it for awhile, where you have had had deadlines and met them, it might help. You'll look back at your articles and think I could have said something a little better, but it got the message across and it was publishable. Does this make sense?

    Just an idea!

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  14. Sara B, thanks. I loved your German comment. So true. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing in Japanese or something, hehe.

    Scott, I have done journalism-type writing. I worked for a magazine all through college. It was great fun, and really did teach me the beauty of a deadline. Note, I'm finishing this revision today and it's been just two little weeks. I will be taking a nice break after, for sure.

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  15. Good, Natalie. And I don't mean to preach, just hate to see a fellow writer struggle.

    What you described also sounded like a gentleman in my writing group. He edits and rewrites, edits and rewrites ... it's never done. I just think it's a trap not to fall into!

    Have an excellent weekend.

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  16. Honestly - if you weren't going a little crazy after the seriously hard work you've been putting in recently, I would be worried for you. You push yourself so hard. Go easy. Being kind to the writer is very important in this game. I think Shelly's right here. Stepping back gives you much better perspective.

    I think that no matter how fantiastic you make it you'll always find something you're not quite happy with. Perfection in writing is very subjective.

    (I''m now humming all the doo-doos to ~~Don't worry, be happy~~)

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  17. You're not alone. I just learned that by reading your blog. Thanks for ranting.

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