by: Joelle Charbonneau
At some point in the creation process, everyone has doubts. Everyone believes that what they are working on has no validity. They are certain that what they have written, or composed or painted well and truly sucks.
Maybe it does.
Maybe it doesn’t.
That’s not really the point. The point is that everyone – NY Times Best Selling author to first time novelist – has these feelings. At some point in the process the excitement of the bright and shiny new story loses its luster. The adrenaline rush fades and what is left in its place isn’t fun and fabulous and filled with joy. It’s work.
That’s right, sports fans. Creating something new takes work. And during that process there will come a point where the work looks dull and lifeless and it takes supreme effort to make yourself sit down at the computer and face the next page. You want to metaphorically wad what you have up in a ball and throw it in the trash. You think you are the worst writer in the world and that the story you are telling would be better served if someone else did it. You think maybe…just maybe…this isn’t the story you are supposed to be telling and you start imagining new story ideas. What if…. How about….
Yep…this is the point in our tale where a large number of writers abandon ship. They feel the punch of delight that comes with a fresh new idea…one that hasn’t reach the point where it feels like work and doesn’t suck and they begin again. However, I warn all of you who stand at this precipice –don’t do it! Because the bright and shiny always fades and doubts will always creep in.
Creating something from nothing is hard. It’s never perfect and it is at those miserably unhappy “this book sucks” moments that you prove whether or not you really and truly have the courage to be an author. On those days when sitting down at the computer feels akin to having a root canal you have a choice—to give into the worries or to face the fear, and get to work. Courage is required to finish what you start. Courage is necessary to allow the story to be told before you pass judgment. Courage is part of what makes an artist of any kind.
For me the “this book sucks” moment always happens between pages 100-150. I think I’m not doing the story justice. I believe I have jumped the shark or taken a turn for the unbelievable. I’m certain I should never have attempted to be an author in the first place. In my relatively short career as an author, I have written almost fourteen novels. Four will never see the light of day. (Trust me, this is for the best!) There are nine that are either published or under contract and in the process of going through the publishing process. One…well…who knows what will happen to it. The point is, in every novel, I came to a crossroads where I wanted to throw up my hands and walk away. But I didn’t. I chose to sit down, gag the inner critic and work.
Today, I am at page 120 of my manuscript. Wow, does it suck. Or maybe it doesn’t. I desperately want this book to be great so it is hard to be objective. So instead of worrying that it isn’t strong enough or evocative enough or….well, you get the point…I am going to open the document and work. I will fill the pages. I will get to The End. Because I refuse to give up. I want to be able to call myself an author. And this is what an author does.
Joelle, you hit the proverbial nail smack on the head! I adore you and your work ethic and your kindness and generosity. I am in the space before starting a new book, which also has its ups and downs. (Ups - WOOHOO I don't have to write or edit anything right now!!! Downs - Holy crap, will I be able to come up with another idea worth writing about and, if I do, will I do it justice?) The creative process is that - it's a process. Sometimes the process is fun and exhilarating and inspiring and sparkly. Other times, it just plain sucks. Hugs to you always, my friend.
Great post. It's great to know it happens to everyone. For me, it also happens in second and third drafts, usually in the middle. I'm going through that now and pushing through. This post has helped me.
My husband knows that when I start randomly talking about going to school to become and accountant, I've reached this stage in the drafting process. It's a hard thing to learn to work past but, as you said, so important. Nobody publishes a blank page.
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