Monday, February 6, 2017

That Point

I don't know how it is for other people, but with everything I write, I hit that point. If you do, too, then I don't have to explain what that point is.

If you don't, then let me first say that I am incredibly envious of you.

When I start work on a project, I'm excited and energetic. I've never started a story that I didn't love--because, to me, if you don't love it why bother writing it in the first place? And the first part of the process is an enthusiastic flurry of activity. I'm outlining, researching, taking notes. I start pounding out a draft at an impressive pace, especially compared to what I normally end up falling to later on in the work.

I'm able to keep this up for a while. The first third of a draft, usually--the first half if I'm lucky. In the beginning, it's like being in love. I'm never more excited than when I'm writing the first chapters of a new novel or the first pages of a short story.

But somewhere along the way, it always sours.

There comes a point--that point--in every piece that I work on where I hate every bit of it. I look at my work and see nothing worth liking. The characters are flat. The setting is blank. The plot has holes big enough to drive a truck through. Every sentence feels clunky and aimless. I can't make myself care about what happens to the characters or how the plot resolves--and if I can't make myself care, how can I expect anyone else to?

It's never fun to get to this place with my work. This is part of why I let finished drafts sit for a while before I go back and revise. By the time I finish a draft, I typically hate it. I'm not able to revise it without wanting to more or less burn the thing to the ground and start all over. I have to leave it alone for a while so that I can come at it with a clearer eyes. (The work is never as bad as I think it is. It's usually not as good, either.)

I'm just starting a new project--the pitch I mentioned a few posts ago that got picked up for publication--so I'm pretty far from that point right now, but my writing partner seems like she might be there now.

I used to think that I was the only one that got to that point. That other writers knew their work's value all along--that a good writer always felt like their writing was good.

In hindsight, that's a pretty ridiculous thing to believe. Creating anything is a trial-and-error process, and a perfectionist is never satisfied. But it's easy to forget that, to compare your draft with someone else's final product.

I think that's really what that point is. You can't see how you're going to get you imperfect, lumpy mess to become a smooth, beautiful narrative. I think that's why it's important to take a step back sometimes, to get fresh eyes on the work. Your own perspective is always going to be skewed--a can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees kind of thing. It's hard to keep going when you hit that point. But it's a normal part of the process--and, like I said, the work is never as bad as we tend to think.

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