January 5 question: What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?
Well, this is somewhat of a difficult question to answer, because at times, I don’t feel my “writing career” has started. Sure, I have a few short stories and poems published in literary magazines, and of course I have multiple books’ worth of content on this blog.
But when I think “career,” the first thing that comes to mind is making money, and although the time and effort I put into the maintenance of this blog, from the posts I publish to the look and feel of the page layout, often feels like a second job, currently, the only check I’m getting is from the 9-to-5.
One thing I do regret—as I believe it has, in a way, derailed my progress to publishing that first book and, as a result, stalled my writing career—is being too critical of my work.
You know how the saying goes: You are your biggest critic. Well, as a perfectionist, I’m ten times worse.
I have left so many stories unfinished because I feared the first drafts sounded too elementary, or the plots I’d outlined too unoriginal.
I write, and rewrite, then rewrite the rewrite, then delete everything and start over. (Prime example: there are currently three versions of Love Poetry on my computer hard drive as we speak.)
I’m constantly ripping through the thesaurus because I don’t feel my vocabulary is diverse enough.
I second guess whether I’m showing rather than telling.
I worry about my pacing in some scenes. Is it okay that I have a page that’s 90% dialogue?
I question if I’ve provided enough details in the narration for the reader to visualize the story:
- How many ways can you say it’s dark outside?
- Does every detail in the room need to be meticulously sketched out to set the scene? I mean, I’m not a screenwriter here.
- Can I just say, “She got in her car”? Do I have to write every step? She grabbed her purse, walked out of the front door, descended the porch steps, walked (is there another word for “walked?”) across the yard to the driveway, and got in her car.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that you don’t need a million pretty words to be a great writer. I’ve read books like that, and they were BORING! You also don’t have to be the next great American novelist to produce stories that people will still love and enjoy and want more of. That’s the one downside of taking those university literary courses. They assign you the wordy stuff, the dated stuff. Although classics, not many in today’s Internet age (the era of instant gratification) have the attention span to read them. Well, let me speak for myself, I don’t have the attention span to read them. Not anymore. So why am I trying to write like them?
Writing the drabble, the 100-word story, has helped me to eliminate those inessential words and descriptions that, although great for atmosphere, don’t necessarily move the plot along, so that all I’m left with is a story. Because that’s why we read, right? We want a good story.
On New Year’s Eve, I embarked on an ambitious challenge to write a marathon of Twilight Zone-inspired stories every hour, midnight to midnight. While I wrote some stories that were pure gems (I smile and get giddy every time I read them), there were others that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with. But I had one particular fan (okay, it was my mom) buttering me up the entire time, encouraging me to keep going, saying that she was enjoying the stories more than the actual marathon on TV. It was a great feeling, and I definitely want more of that.
So my goal for this year is to not be so critical. Don’t worry so much about the details. Perfectionism is an enemy of success, and do you really want to deprive your biggest fan?
Hi, mom! 🙂