Monday, March 5, 2012

Two sides of the same coin


There has to be a balance between loving your work, and being critical of it.

...and I'm certainly not the best example.

I'm very critical of my own writing. Whenever I send it to someone to critique, my email usually includes the phrase, "shred it to pieces". And I never intend that line to be exaggeration for the sake of humour (thought I do poke fun at myself whenever possible).

I do mean it. I want my work to be shredded into itty-bitty pieces.

One of the best things about being dyslexic: I pretty much have an iron skin.

And truly, no shred-tacular critique from a fellow writer is going to be worse than my third grade teacher forcing me to re-write my work on the blackboard in front of the entire class so I would 'learn' not to fool around and would stop writing my letters backwards, while she lectured me the entire time about what a bad student I was.

Yup. I have an iron skin.

I know there are going to be errors no matter how many times I look over the same piece of writing.

What looked fine yesterday will look ridiculous tomorrow, and I'll ask myself, "Was I drunk when I checked that over? Nope? Okay, just dyslexic. Like an idiot, I should have seen those raisins."

The reason I'm super-critical is because I love writing and I want to get better.

Though I expect there to be mistakes, I want it to be perfect. I so badly want readers to 'get' the story I'm trying to tell, to love the characters the way I do, to see the world through my eyes. I don't want to waste my critique partner's time by tripping them up on weirdly worded sentences, white-room-syndrome, confusing character motivations, or pizza-popsicles.

So the more I love the story, the more critical I am.

Does that sound strange?

I do think these are two aspects of the same thing. Like the old saying about love and hate being two sides of the same coin. The opposite of love isn't hate, it's apathy. Similarly with writing, being enamoured and being critical of the same page of words... those are both strong emotions, which means you're invested in the story.

But when the two aren't balanced, that's when problems can occur. If you love it too much, you can't see the problems. Similarly, if you are too critical, you can't see the good.

Either way, you can't improve, and I definitely lean more naturally to the second one. Most of the time I'm so desperate to find and fix my mistakes before someone else sees them that I lose focus and don't spend the time I should to refine the parts of my writing that are good, but could be great if I worked on them with the same dedication I use to hunt/destroy the bad parts.

Which is why I have to jolt myself out of that tunnel-vision-mindset, make a mess and have fun once in a while.

I need to remind myself why I love a particular story and why I was willing to devote so much time and energy into it.

How about you guys? Which way do you tend to tilt, towards love or hate? Any words of wisdom in how to re-set your balance? How are you right now with your WIP's?

12 comments:

  1. here is what Tolkien thought of his own work, which makes for fun reading :)

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    1. That was pretty interesting :) Thanks, Alcar!

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  2. I tend to be pretty critical of my work. It's a bit difficult not to be when you want your story to be perfect - hence, the problem right there. The pursuit of perfection. I try to remind myself of all the times I've read a book by a published author, best selling author or award-winning author and found things that could have been improvded or a little change here or there could tighten a paragraph. Remembering that helps me reset my balance.

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    1. That's a very good thing to remember, thanks for sharing, Angela!

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  3. When I'm writing, it is definitely towards "love." I love my characters while the story is unfolding. I love my writing as it flows out of my fingers.

    When I read it again, I often just sigh and put it down. "I don't have time to wade through this mess." It's like I filled a shallow pool with the most amazing water, and then somehow it grew algae and the leeches invaded it - slowly sucking the life out of the work that I once loved.

    So... yeah, I hate revisions. I hate doing them because I end up hating my work.

    There will be passages that I'll read and say, "Why can't the whole thing be like this?!" But for the most part, I always think I need more editing than I usually do.

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    1. That's a great way to put it! ...algae and leeches ;)

      I tend to swing back and forth while I'm writing, but also during revisions, but I think I am happier during revisions than during writing. Probably because (as a pantser) I don't have a lot of confidence in the words as they're coming out ;) At least when the first draft is complete I have something to work with :)

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  4. When J.K. Rowling edited her own work she said she loved it and hated it at the same time. We all do this. It takes me forever to write a 200 word challenge because I keep finding that I’ve used the same word too many times - or - when I was doing a blurb today every sentence started with “The” Maybe I’m dyslexic also.....

    Just a word about your teacher - then off to bed - well - I can’t put that word here, it’s not nice. But you are lucky that you got through school .... in spite of them, or because of them?

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    1. I'd definitely say because of it :) I think if someone had patted me on the back and said, 'oh, poor baby... it's okay that you can't do it' that I might have just accepted it.

      Yes, at the time it felt horrible, but I can see the silver-lining in the experience because the more someone tells me I can't do something, the more I want to prove them wrong :)

      Getting angry and doing something is better than getting sad and doing nothing, right? And that experience was integral in teaching me that lesson.

      I don't look back and feel angry or anything, I just see it as one of the many things that shaped who I am today... which is someone really stubborn who hates giving up ;)

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  5. I'm definitely too critical of my own work. In my opinion I have fantastic ideas that are wasted on me.

    No help here, I'm afraid!

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    1. Wasted? NO WAY!!!

      Go write them 'cause I wanna read them!

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  6. Yep, too critical here, too. You just read my post about the editor, and I'll share here the reason I decided to send him the MS (besides his unearthly qualifications, and the fact that I've been following his blog for months, addicted to his advice) is because after we'd talked about my novel and discussed some great story-arch issues, I told him I'd give it one last "once-over" to make sure it was perfect before sending it to him. He smiled, a kind smile, and said, "It'll never be perfect. You need to let it go." And you know what? He's RIGHT. We, the author, can't edit our stuff to perfection. We'll edit it to death. I'm not saying "don't revise, don't check for echoes, don't take out all that wordiness"--that's a second draft, or a third maybe. But after that it's time to let someone else read it, someone that (hopefully) has the experience to weed out the true gold nuggets and point them out to us. Why? Because then we, the author, will have a to-do list. THIS is what works, THIS is what doesn't.

    I guess what I'm saying is that we all strive for perfection, in one way or another. And it's important to realize it'll never be perfect. It needs to be good--great, even. Magnificent. Compelling, and forceful. Brilliant. But perfect? No, not perfect. Tough lesson, yes. One that will take most of us years to learn. Here's the thing, though. If we don't learn it, we run the risk of 1) killing our voice, and 2) killing our love of writing. That's not worth the price, is it?

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    1. He's right :) We could all nit-pick for years on one, single draft and never truly grow as a writer :)

      You give some very thought-provoking advice, as usual :)

      ...and I can't wait for your next post on the 8 kilos of books you brought back ;)

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Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)