Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Self-Loathing and The Writing Process

by Julia Buckley
At the beginning of every new writing project I experience a sort of euphoria. I have a great idea, and it's coming together. I'm immersed in the story, meeting the characters, convinced that I'm creating something real and powerful.

Then I read it and revise bits. And read it again, and again, and again, as I try to polish it, and eventually I cross that barrier where I can no longer be objective about my own work. And just a few paces down that road is the town of I Can't Stand It.

This happens every time. I don't know if it's a psychological phenomenon or a trick of biology, but with each new creation I go through the predictable stages that begin with love and fascination and end up with that lack of objectivity and something close to hatred.

Then I have to put the manuscript away, sometimes for a long time, before I can bear to look at it again.

Is this a universal thing? If so, what is it that makes us ultimately reject our own creation and want to move on to something different? Is it a fear of revision, or a necessary breach which allows us to begin again? Is there a way to reclaim love for one's written words?

Writers and readers, I'd love your opinions.

12 comments:

Paul Lamb said...

I've never come to hate the project I'm working on, but I certainly have felt boredom with it or being thoroughly tired of it. I want to be done with it.

I don't know the reason. "Familiarity breeds contempt" is a common expression. For me the pressing arrival of the next story-in-mind probably plays a part too. I want to get on to the next work, the one that still excites me, rather than the one that has been inside my head for too long.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh gosh....you SO need to read this link: http://libba-bray.livejournal.com/36896.html

Because writing a book really is a love story.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Julia Buckley said...

I know what you mean, Paul. The visitor that stays too long . . .

Elizabeth, I'll check out the link. I sense you're giving me a dose of positivity!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I don't refer to this roadblock in writing as self-loathing or boredom. To me, it's: WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

I've learned to push through it. If it was a great idea in the first few chapters, I will find my way again once I hack through the jungle of self-doubt. When you have a book contract breathing down your neck, you don't have time to put it in a drawer and revisit it later. The deadline forces you to keep moving and not abandon ship.

Near the end of a book, I experience the nausea effect: If I see this book one more time, I will throw up.

It's usually not until I'm working on my publisher's suggested edits that I finally think: Hey, this isn't bad!

I'm convinced that writing is a form of bi-polar disorder.

Terri Thayer said...

Right there with you, Julia. I'm revising a book that I let sit for a month (deadlines, you know) and found it's better than I thought. It's also shorter than I thought.

Alan Orloff said...

I'm the mayor of the town of I Can't Stand It. (Town Motto: I stink, you stink, we all stink together.)

Actually, I think someone once said (probably Mark Twain--he's usually the one, right?) that, in the harsh light of day, your work isn't as bad--or as good--as you first thought.

Well, that's half right for me.

Julia Buckley said...

Yes, I realize that those of you with deadlines must push through, and that's the good thing about deadlines. :)

And Terri, I've had that experience; I think the book is very long because it felt that way, but it ends up quite short by industry standards.

Alan--Mr. Mayor--nice to meet you. I'd work on the town motto. :)

Keith Raffel said...

My 1st agent said you know a manuscript is ready to submit when you can't stand to look at again.

G.M. Malliet said...

Keith - That agent was SO right!

Julia Buckley said...

Well, then my manuscript is almost ready to go.

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