Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ego v. Crushed Ego

Thanks to everyone worldwide who helped with the zombie smackdown. There's always more students to be found, so no worries about my job security, either.

I mentioned on Monday I'd found a clutch of bum chapters in my novel. Today on the bus - despite my tendency toward motion sickness - I scribbled down quite a lot of good ideas for dealing with them. I'm quite pleased, not that I was distressed before.

That lack of hysteria is notable. I do still oscillate between thinking my writing is brilliant and thinking it's a big reeking pile of poo, but the euphoria and despair are both better-tempered now. I have faith in my ability to think through problems and awareness that nothing I write will ever be perfect.

I think all writers go through these cycles. When you get done writing a novel, you think it's gold. And you're quite wrong. (Although hopefully not completely wrong.)

The egotism that accompanies this euphoria gets in the way of improving that piece of writing. It can also lead to unfortunate moments of Being An Ass; for example, you may request people read your work, smug in your expectation of praise, only to end up in a snit when you get constructive criticism instead.

Once you recognise your work's imperfections, you can start improving it. However, at that point, you're also so depressed about your lack of talent and immense capacity for self-delusion that you question the wisdom of bothering.

It's a weird tightrope to walk. On one leg of the chicken, you can't write a hundred thousand words without believing you (and your writing) are awesome, but on the other, you can't make the writing awesome until you notice all the myriad ways it isn't.

I have gotten mellower about my writerly equivalent of a menstrual cycle, and it is simply experience that gave me that mellowness.

How do you handle your ups and downs? What do you do when self-doubt sets in, and how do you keep yourself from querying your work the millisecond you finish it?

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