Saturday, October 24, 2015

Creative Forgiveness

Over the course of the past two weeks, I've written and deleted several blog posts I intended to use. Lame, I know. The posts were nothing serious or controversial, just frilly everyday life stuff, but I'd start writing, get half way through a post then hit the delete button. I guess because the posts didn't seem relevant or worth bothering with by the time I realized where they were going. I'm aware of how batty that is. It's just a blog after all, a place for random thoughts, and I keep deleting mine. But whatever...

It's nearing the end of October, and the blog hasn't been updated since the 10th. Hear that roar? That's the tide of guilt sweeping me away for not blogging. That's what I get for overthinking and censoring myself. Probably my worst two habits in action, but what can I do?

It's been a tough year for me creatively. Even a re-release of an old story felt like a major accomplishment, and I know it's because I put way too much pressure on myself. I have to stop with the pressure and the guilt. If I'm going to write and publish/self-publish my work, I've got to end it with the long suffering self struggle. It's throwing off my chi. I love to write. I should be enjoying what I'm doing, not dreading opening a file every time I sit down at the computer.

The Elizabeth Gilbert quotes for Big Magic have been added to my post today, because they've made a profound impression on me. I've written two novels this year, and both are still sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to get back to the revisions. In fact, I'm already working on a third book. However, looking at those past drafts is a lot like facing unscalable mountains. How do I get over those books?  How do I "perfect them" enough to kick them out the door? There isn't a minute that goes by when I'm not thinking about how I should be wrapping up those books. It's daunting. Why can't I seem to finish them?

All my first drafts are messes. I've aways been upfront and honest about that. So, what's the hangup? Better yet, why am I putting this kind of miserable pressure on myself?

I settled in to work on one of my drafts today, and again, I hesitated to open the files. I've even been thinking about shelving them indefinitely. But I really don't want to do that. I love both the ideas behind these books. I love the characters. I don't want to abandon them mid-stream.

I couldn't seem to focus on revisions today, so this afternoon, on a whim, I pulled an old story out of storage and started reading it. I've always liked this particular story, but it was rejected by one of my former publishers. Well, it was sort of rejected. I actually got a revise and resubmit request for it, but after reading through the editor's comments, I decided to take an R and be done with it.

Rereading through that story today, the editor's comments were still cringeworthy, but not for the reasons I remember. The editor's frustration with the story was apparent, and that frustration seemed to escalate throughout the piece. No wonder I tossed that story into a shoebox and abandoned it. After about four chapters, I had to stop reading the comments and ask myself why the editor bothered to keep leaving commentary this many pages in if they weren't invested and had no plan to take the story without massive rewrites.

As I said, it was a rewrite and revise request, but I'm sure that the majority of editors would've just axed me after the first chapter and dusted their hands. In this case, the entire story from beginning to end had been redmarked. I can't remember any other editor doing that before. Not for a piece they didn't plan to accept.

I know my story has legs. It just needs work. I think the editor saw that too. That's the point. The story itself isn't as terrible as I once thought it was. After I received that R&R, I thought the story had an incurable disease that killed it dead, but instead, it just has story rickets. It needs Vitamin TLC to get it to a healthy state. I can work with this.

Another important thing that I noticed, and this is a big one: I no longer agree with everything the editor said about the story or my writing. I can't tell you how huge that is, or what kind of growth that means for a writer. For the most part, I take an editor's word as golden. I have a certificate in copyediting, but when it comes right down to it, I'm a storyteller not a grammar geek. In this case, time and experience has given me a new perspective.  The story does need work, and the editor was definitely on track with the story's major problems. However, some of the things this editor pointed out to me, I'd politely ignore, because those suggestions are not what would be best for my story.

That's a pretty big deal. That one realization allowed me to forgive myself for writing and submitting such a shitty story over two years ago...a story that isn't even as shitty as I thought it was. That's liberating.

Now I just have to face those novel revisions. Before I open those files again, I'm going to take five before I settle into my desk chair and say this to myself: Cora, I forgive you for writing a horrible draft. You said you'd show up to write it, and so you did. Now, on to phase two. Muse, wherever you are, could you please put down your knitting and let's get on with it? I'm ready to see what happens next.

I feel better just from writing that down. Like Ms. Gilbert said in her book, Big Magic, "I didn't promise the universe I would be a good writer. I just said I'd be a writer." I totally support that logic. It takes loads of stress off the process, and as far as I'm concerned, the less stressful the process is, the better. ♥

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