Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Putting the work in your works

There are two people who seem to want to get in the way of good writing, and the vile pair have an insidious hiding place: inside of us.

You know them: Ego Maniac, the One Draft Wonder.  He'll spew out something on the fly and if people don't like it, it's because they can't understand his genius.  The other half of the destructive duo is Self Doubt, the perpetual revisionist.  He's the one who is never happy with what he creates and makes excuses as to why he can't let it be read or published. 

I'd love to say, "Kill them to death," but in reality, they're who keeps us honest.  We're at our best when we walk the knife edge between the two.  Objectivity isn't easy.  When we go deep into ourselves to write something, we have a hard time detaching ourselves from it.  If it's not loved, we feel that we're not loved.  And that applies to our own impressions of what we've done, as well.  If we don't love our own work, we self-hate.  We shouldn't. Nor should we be over-confident.

Our works take work.  We write, read, revise, read, set aside, return, read, revise, read, etc.  Good writing can take many drafts to get right.  Sometimes the sentiment is dead on, but the words were using aren't worthy of the feelings we're trying to express.  They just don't evoke the same passion in an outside reader.  Sometimes the words are beautiful, and meaningless.  We need to recognize this; we need to fix our problems. 

I never saw this more clearly than in my effort to write a sonnet.  I knew what I wanted to say. I knew the rhyme scheme and meter I needed.  I made something that was technically correct, and it was...fair.  It didn't really knock my socks off.  That's because writing within formal parameters is hard work!  But it's work worth doing.  If we want to not just write, but write well, we need to do the work.  Readers will see the difference between the scribbler who simply vomits words onto a page, and the artist who carefully and lovingly crafts something magical.  


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