My buddy Cal, @CalPLogan, inspired me to write this post, after I read something on his blog. You can read Cal’s post yourself here, but the short story (and what inspired me), is that Cal wrote a short story. One that he’s really proud of. One that according to him, is: “[…] one of the best things I’d ever written. I knew it. I felt it in my blood.”
It takes guts to say something like that. Writers are, like so many other kinds of artists, their own worst critics. I know from experience, that I love to hate myself. To hate the work I do, to never think it’s good enough, or will ever be good enough. Thinking that everyone’s doing so much better, everyone is so much more capable. When I say it takes gut to say those things, I mean to ourselves, not to others. At least that’s how I experience it.
So I wanted to try and do what Cal did. I want to try to be that honest with myself, to take a moment, however brief, to just admit that I’m doing all right. God knows I spend far too much time doing the opposite. It’s weird actually, sometimes I’ll even catch myself doing it. I’ll think to myself, This is shit. Then a split second later, I’ll think, What? Why? This is all right, isn’t it? I usually settle for, Maybe…
But I’ve been working on project-in between-projects lately. Last year’s NaNoWriMo project to be precise. (If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s this whole thing where you’re supposed to write a novel in a month. I tried it out last November, and if you’re interested you can read about it here). Anyway, I did that, back then. I wrote a full first draft. In a week. It was a good challenge, a good experience, and when I was done I realized that the story was pretty okay as well. It wasn’t too bad, do you know what I mean? There was something there.
I picked it up again a few weeks ago, because I’m waiting for feedback for my main WIP, and I couldn’t be bothered to write the sequel in that series yet. My NaNo project was only 41k words, a novella by most standards, so I figured I could go over that again.
So I did. Revised, edited, fleshed it out a little bit. It went pretty fast, actually. For once I was excited to do edits (if you don’t know me I absolutely hate edits. More than I hate the sun, which if you don’t know me, I really do.)
But my novella was all right. Going through it was fun, almost simple. The story was so well put together, more so than I could remember. When I got toward the end, I was *big breath*, really, really proud. I think I actually jerked my head back at a particular scene, and thought, This is really good…
I’ve been struggling to define it, but I think I’ve settled on it being a dark, psychological thriller, bordering on horror. And it’s really good. I’m so happy with it. Of course, I’m proud of my main WIP as well, if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be writing it. I’m not going to be that guy who hates absolutely everything he does and thinks it’s all shit. It’s just that often I feel it could be better, I struggle to be happy with it. I think it has to do with my WIPs, though not super long, are bigger in scope. There’s more stuff you have to be careful about, more things to tie together. But with this novella, I wrote it really fast, it’s a kind of simple, straightforward story, and it just works. Really, really well.
When I tried to analyze all this, I realize I’ve edited it really fast as well. Usually I work on my things over quite a long while, dragging it out by working on multiple projects and reading a lot in between. I’m not in a rush, they’ll be ready when they’re ready. But the novella wasn’t like that, and apparently it worked. It worked really well.
I’m looking forward to sharing this story with the world, to the point where I can’t wait to get it out there. But of course I’m going to, it still needs some work and I’m not one to rush. I’ll leave it for another while, have another look over it, and see where we stand.
Point being? Take some time and remind yourself that you’re good at stuff. Take some time to be proud of things, if not everything, all the time. I know I don’t do it too often, and I think it’s because I have this weird association between pride and smugness. I think I’m too afraid to be seen as a guy who gloats (which is probably one of the most unappealing characteristics a person can have), that I don’t dare feel pride, even at the best of times.
But I did it now, and I’ll make sure it lasts for a while. I’m proud of my novella. And maybe even a little excited…