Friday, December 06, 2013
Self-Sabotage: Don't Be This Writer
Reviewed by OFW editor:
Published: September 11, 2012
The reason I keep writing new novels despite having five or six submitted to this agent and that, is because I have to face the cold, painful reality that those six might be pure shit. If I stop, then I’m sabotaging myself. I’ve seen others do it time and time again. Surely you have too. Self-sabotage begins with an idea. "I think I’ll write a novel." It progresses from there. The difference between an author who will achieve success and one that will end up in writing hell is whether or not we let ego take the place of common sense and hard work.
You begin with a brilliant idea.
Don’t you love new ideas? Aren’t they pretty and exciting? Should you write it? Maybe you’ll just sit on it for a while. Yeah, that’s better. Oh wait! Let’s go ask our tweeps what they think. Better yet—is that a Big Bang Theory marathon? Let’s flesh this out later.
It takes most of us a long time to feel confident in a story idea. Whether you plot or pants it, you do consider it, roll it around in your head, and hammer the shit out of the possibilities before you sit down to write. When you do, you’re completely in love with the story. So it’s time to:
Install the rose-colored glasses.
This idea might just be the best novel ever written. I mean it’s obviously brilliant, new, fresh—just what publishers are looking for. Fuck it, let’s screw the outline and see what happens. After all, the best ideas come from inspired creation, not logical thought. And then…
Writers in love with a new idea immerse themselves in it. We don’t eat, sleep, or shower, and we only go to work because the electric bill must be paid in order to keep writing. We give up a lot in the interest of writing something so fanfuckingtastic the world gasps. Sadly, I don’t think any writer has ever achieved such a thing. But it’s bound to happen, so why not let it be me or you? Burn out? Pfft. This exhilaration is addictive, and it feels so good. How could it possibly be a bad thing?
But then, after burning the candle at both ends, writing into the wee hours, getting up and going to work, coming home to write more, ignoring friends, family and the dog, something replaces obsession and exhilaration.
Let me introduce you to anxiety and fear.
What’s this Fifty Shades of Bullshit nonsense? If that piece of crap got published, surely my studied, careful writing will be recognized. It should be recognized. It's not fair that hard-working folks like me get passed over for...ugh, fan fiction. Fuck I hate authors that publish shit…I hate published authors. Fan fiction isn’t real writing. And don’t get me started on self-published success. No such thing. Readers are stupid. What's happening to this world? I hate writing. I hate editing. I hate that damn query letter. Who are these stupid-ass agents to make me jump through hoops? This protagonist sucks. I’m rewriting the whole thing. But I can’t. It was a brilliant idea. What if I change it and I ruin it? But if I don’t change it—why did they publish such horrible writing? I don’t get it. Maybe I don’t know what good writing is. Maybe I’ve never known. Maybe I suck. God, I hate this. I’m going to start collecting stamps…right after I change this one thing.
Exhaustion seeps in…and so does the denial.
I’m so tired. Hey, wait a minute. Austen stank worse than my husband’s socks. But they consider her work great literature. Pfft. I’ve been looking at this the wrong way. The traditional publishing industry is a sham. The publishers and agents are gigantic asshole terrorists and they’re out to ruin decent authors. How did I not see it? All this time I’ve been trying to please them. There’s nothing wrong with my writing. They don’t want talent. They want money. Well I won’t be part of that. I am an artist. Besides, I can make more money without them. Thieving bastards.
Hello, ego. Nice of you to finally arrive. Go on, flutter your gorgeous lashes for us.
Screw it. This manuscript is too complicated for the industry to understand. I’ll never publish it that way. Better to write something else. I just don’t have the time. I should delete the entire thing. Wait a minute, it's not me that's the problem. It's all of them. The readers, the agents, the publishers; they're all idiots. I’m so much better than this.
Then desperation joins the party for a brief interlude.
It’s not enough. Something’s missing. I’ll read for a while. Oh my shit, this character is brilliant! This book is so old, no one will notice if I use just one line. Maybe two.
Self-sabotage can't resist Ego any longer.
I’ve written the most brilliant novel ever. I’m not going to let some puissant editor fuck with it either. He’ll remove the lines I carefully researched and he’ll try to change my voice. Nothing wrong with my voice. It’s perfection. Even if it’s not, it’s still mine. It’s dishonest to let an editor change that. If readers don’t like me for me, I don’t need them. Besides, who needs a good agent when they’re hanging on to gold? I’m publishing this as-is. Then the money will start to roll in.
What happens next? That depends. Sometimes the writer gets lucky, and makes a few sales. Sometimes the writer backs out at the last minute or is lucky to have a good friend who thumps her over the head in time to stop the insanity. The thing is, in writing, you should never base decisions on ego or desperation. Actually decisions regarding your work shouldn’t involve emotion at all. Hard, I know. We’re such a passionate bunch after all. But falling into the self-sabotage trap set by our egos rarely finds us where we hope to be.
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