This has been a week of highs and lows for me. And as is often the case when my mood starts flailing about like an enraged hobo high on bath salts, I can’t really put my finger on why. Which is surprising ’cause I don’t consider myself to be an emotionally complex individual. Overall I’m pretty simple.
What you see is what you get is what I feel. My emotional barometer doesn’t fluctuate all that much, usually. But this week has been a little different and since I’ve spent a goodly amount of time digging through my internal ichor in search of why that is, I figured I might as well share the results with ya’ll because none of this is unique to me. Au contraire mi amigo (
I said it in an interview a couple weeks back, but in case you missed it, I’l repeat it here: Writers (which extends to any creative type) need to have Han Solo’esque self-confidence alongside some C3PO crippling self-doubt. The tension between those two states of mind is where the best art is created.
Unfortunately, it also gives rise to some wicked internal dissonance which can lead to heavy drinking and heavy self-flagellation (and not the good kind).
Earlier this week I announced that I would be writing a time-traveling story for The Future Chronicles (which represents the apex of this weeks rollercoaster). But then it came time to dig in and get my fingers dirty with ink and story guts (this is the steep drop). Then came all the twists and turns that naturally arise when you write a story. The warm euphoria drizzling down on you like a Golden Shower from God when you realize, “Hey, this is an actual thing,” counterbalanced by the Devil’s wet-willy when you find that, “Hey, this isn’t any good.”
Which is nothing new; I always go through this phase upon swan diving into a second draft. After writing so many stories you’d think I’d be ready for the whiplash hairpin juke that comes after completing a first draft, but you’d be wrong. For some reason, I never see the damn thing coming.
Now, I’m not writing this because I want ya’ll’s self-pity (well, not entirely), but because at some point in the creative process you’re going to hit this wall like a crash-test dummy in a Pinto. It’s about this time that you want to throw your finger paints across the room and start giving serious thought to becoming a professional vagrant. The last thing you want to do is sit back down and get to work.
The shit of it is, that’s precisely what you’ve got to do. There’s no way around it. People say you can’t polish a turd, but you know what? Those people are absolutely wrong.
But here’s the other thing to remember: It’s probably not as bad as you think it is. Though, don’t get me wrong, sometimes it totally is. When that happens I recommend some margaritas and quesadillas to soothe the pain.
Overall I’m really happy with how this story is shaping up for the Time Travel Chronicles, by the way. There are some unique characters set within an interesting story world, but as usually happens at this point in my process I start second guessing myself and wondering, “Can I do this better?”
The truth is… yes, yes I probably can do better. Given more time, more practice, more skill, more more more..more things I don’t really have. I might as well wish for Patrick Rothfuss’s writing chops or the storytelling gene that Stephen King was so obviously born with (and totally never earned, he’s a cheater), for all the good it’ll do.
Ira Glass summarizes it perfectly in the video below. Especially if you’re a creative type who’s C3PO crippling self-doubt has become a bit too crippling.
If I could change anything about that video it would be to point out that this feeling of mediocrity is not reserved for beginners. I’d say regardless of where you are on the path, you’re gonna hit this at some point. Even those guys I listed above, Rothfuss and King, suffer from that same nagging voice in the back of their head that says, “Ehh…. this is sort of shite.”
I am hyper-critical of everything. Especially myself. This makes me a good writer, a careful father, and (I hope) a good human being.
— Pat Rothfuss (@PatrickRothfuss) June 5, 2015
The price of this is that I am constantly disappointed in myself. And in the world. And I am frequently angry and unhappy.
— Pat Rothfuss (@PatrickRothfuss) June 5, 2015
There’s power in that realization. Writing (and art in general) is solitary by nature, and often you have no way of knowing if you’re doing it right. If those feelings of inadequacy are unique to you or indicative of something much more wide-spread.
Well, dear reader, take solace. You’re not alone,.
We all think we suck.
I think that was the point I was trying to make in all of this. Can’t be sure, though. Too many margaritas and quesadillas.