Sunday, November 22, 2009

Learning lessons

I've had a difficult time writing since I lost 246 pages of a book in process. Its loss affected me harder than I've wanted to admit. To be quite frank, I didn't think it was that good, but I'd made quite a bit of progress. I thought there was a workable draft in sight. I'd edited so much that I can't really call it a first draft, but it still lacked an ending. That's what bothers me. It's one of my fears as a writer. Can I finish something that isn't short? A poem is short. So are essays, articles, blog entries. While a lot of grants aren't short, they're often broken up into smaller parts. A lot of short stories aren't even really short.

Do I basically run out of steam as a writer after just a few pages? Is this a failure of my imagination or a lack of discipline? My most critical inner voice tells me that this is just part of my inability to finish anything important. That I do have evidence to the contrary means nothing to her. She just doesn't like to be hushed.

When I can't get my inner critic to shut up, I start to live up to her expectations. Tonight, when I signed onto the blog, I headed to edit entries where I deleted several drafts I've started but dropped. They were boring. They were too whiny. They were too personal. They were too depressing. They were ideas that didn't deserve to be developed. When my critic gets going, she's very good at what she does. I let short, little blog entries drop because they weren't good enough. Then I got in trouble again for not finishing what I started. To avoid that criticism, I just didn't start anything.

That's the real problem with fighting yourself. You always lose.

I'm tired of that. I'm going to take a lesson from myself. The book I started and lost was about a musician who lost her voice and her ability to play instruments through an act of brutality. The story was about how my character grew when her primary tools for healing and understanding were taken away. She had to find another way.

I've always looked at the good novel as the pinnacle of literature. That's what real writing was all about. So, for me to be a real writer, I had to write a novel. That's a pretty destructive thought. It minimizes everything else I write. While I was trying to come up with ideas for the blog entries I deleted, I took a little time to re-read the poems I wrote for the Poem A Day Challenge in April. At the time, I didn't think much of them. After letting them cool for a few months, I realized they weren't as bad as I thought they were. There are actually a few that I like. There's some real writing there. There's some real writing in my handwritten journals. There's some real writing here in this blog.

I don't know if I have it in me to write a novel, but I'm not going to disrespect the rest of my writing if I don't. I'm not going to disrespect myself because my life hasn't followed the arc I plotted.

Tonight, I didn't fight my inner critic. I just walked away, and I feel like I won.


Blogger Theresa Williams said...

Cyn, all I know is that you just keep chipping away on it. Sooner or later all the small pieces add up to something big. My first book took 6 years and this second is now four years in. The biggest thing for me this second time around has been selecting the right main character. Finding the right voice. My advice is just to write and don't think, "I'm writing a book." Because then you start wondering if you're worthy or able. Of course you are able. Just say something real, honest, and true. Yes, that is a hard thing to do, but it's what readers crave. Imagine your reader, ask yourself what she needs, and give it to her! xoxoxo

November 23, 2009 3:21 AM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

I wrote in a blog entry a long time ago that I damn well consider myself a writer, but I have no desire or intention to write a novel. Losing your book sucked, for sure, but the book itself didn't make you any more or less of a writer. You have a great ability to present, develop, and conclude ideas in short form. That in itself is a gift. Writers like Faulkner and Dickens could have benefitted from a little more of that restraint. ;)

Your "poem-a-day" poems were wonderful. Honestly, I'm a little put out with you that you didn't appreciate them at the time for the good body of work they were. Poetry is a very disciplined form of writing that not many people can do well. That, too, is a gift that you should appreciate (and exploit!)

So, I'm done preaching at you now... :-]

November 23, 2009 10:17 AM  
Blogger alphawoman said...

I was watching Lou Reed on tv the other night and he was talking about his ability to write lyrics was gone. But, he knew it would return. He was confidant it would return. He has lost it before and it always comes back. I thought that was pretty cool. He didn't call it writers block, he made no excuses. I remember the poems. You kept with that! I admire those who commit to writing a blog entry a day. I tried it once and it is difficult. I began writing about what I was cooking for dinner! Ha!

November 24, 2009 7:08 PM  

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