Insecure Writers' Support Group: The Eternal Struggle #IWSG




Last month, I wrote about allowing yourself to suck at writing, knowing you'll get better with practice. This month, I'm going to write about the fact you're probably always going to think you suck at it.


The words I type never match the words I "write" in my mind. In my head, the words flow like sweet wine, graceful and poetic. The right adjective always strikes the perfect inflection, and sentences are always delicately worded with sublime subtlety. But betwixt the brain and fingers, there's some sort of traffic jam. I'm never able to achieve what I envisioned. In my head, I hear a symphony. When I sit down at the keyboard, it's Chopsticks off-key.

This has led to countless hours of frustration, fruitless revision, tears, and the sort of swearing that would make prison inmates blush and cover their ears. Equally countless are the times I've stormed away from the desk, saying I was a moron for ever thinking I could do this writing thing, and why -oh why - did I ever get myself mixed up in this mess?

Then I calm down, grab another cup of tea, and try again. Because this is part and parcel of the whole "writing thing."

First of all, we're our own harshest critics. We notice that spot where the perfect adjective eluded us, where a bit of clumsy wording caused us to grind our teeth because the right words danced in the back of our minds, frustratingly out of reach. I suppose it's much like painting a ceiling. We remember where we patched that crack, and so that spot never quite looks right to us, though others who come into the room never notice it.

But this is a good thing. Because it makes us always strive to be better. Like athletes, our skills get better with practice, but unlike athletes, authors have the potential to get better as they age. That striving for perfection is crucial. You might be able to think of an author who stopped trying to get better and just keeps producing the same work, or perhaps even declined in quality. Maybe they lost that fire to try harder to grab that perfect phrasing next time.

More than anything, I want my words to burn. Occasionally, I strike a spark. That spark tells me it could be something more, and I might just kindle a flame if I keep trying. Maybe someday, I'll unlock that jam between my mind and fingers. Or maybe they'll invent a mind-dictating writing machine .... And then perhaps I'll find out those sublime sentences weren't as awesome as I thought they were once I read them. But I have a goal. I want to improve. I'm going to improve.

Though it sometimes keeps our nerves on edge, never being satisfied with our own work keeps us striving for improvement.



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You can see my other posts for the Insecure Writer's Support Group here, and visit the main blogroll here.

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3 comments:

  1. Excellent point - I have the same problem, imagining superhumanly brilliant prose in my mind, which comes out really flat when I try and write it.

    Maybe you could keep a store of the best stories you've written (or those readers have given you positive feedback on) to remind yourself what you're capable of?

    Even so, sometimes functional prose, with an occasional great phrase or piece of imagery, is enough to tell the story.

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    1. I've made it my goal to write clearly and simply. (And perhaps someday wean myself from my terrible addiction to adverbs.) The way I see it, the best writing is the kind that "disappears" as you're reading a story. You don't notice the prose, or stop to think what a nicely-worded sentence that was, because you're so engrossed in the story itself.

      I can't be the poet I am in my head in real life, so I'll be a wordsmith.

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  2. The more we keep at it, the closer we get to putting what's in our heads onto the page. And, as you say, the striving keeps us from growing complacent so we are always improving. (I just wish it was a faster process hehe).

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