I’m Feeling Much Better Now, Thank You!

See, here’s the thing: I’m an overachieving perfectionist. That’s sometimes hard to see if you look at my life from the outside, but it’s very, very true. The chaos that crops up in my life is often the result of aiming too high and learning my physical limitations a little too late into the game. I take comfort in knowing that I’m not alone, but that’s pretty damn cold comfort when I’m closing in on a deadline and realize I just can’t make it. Many of my books have died an early death because of this problem with overshooting and then not being far enough along in my career arc to execute.

The Corridors of the Dead was supposed to represent an easing of that perfectionism – it’s far from a perfect novel, and it’s intended to be that way, because in the past when I’ve labored to create the perfect book, I got too knotted up in my own intentions and robbed the story of my own unique voice. I figured voice and authenticity should come before any storytelling perfection. Those techniques can come later.

Then I got into Room 3 and realized it had a shot to be something special. Suddenly, I forgot my goals in Corridors and all of my problems came rushing back. Drenched in the cold sweat of fear, I started reading too many advice columns about what writers should and shouldn’t be doing, and my intentions came second to making this ultimately personal, somewhat niche book, into something for everyone.

In short, I let my inner editor get the best of me and insist that we go for gold this time. I forgot that this has never worked for me, that perfection has always been the enemy of good in my career.

A few comments from Monday’s angst-laden entry put my head in a different space. Nikki Broadwell, for instance, reminded me that I need to still be putting that editor in my head somewhere else while I do the editing. The editor can guide certain aspects, but the creative voice needs to be in control. Aniko Carmean put it very well yesterday :

If it was to make money, I think you have one answer.
If it was because you had no choice but to write, I think you have another answer.

 

I’m sure there are wilds of options between those two, but going back to my ‘first spark’ always helps clear away the haze that has developed in the (very short!) time since my publication. I also have a mission statement to guide the business aspect of my writing. In it, I made sure to include my original motivations for writing, so as to always have a writer’s compass, as it were.

I have no choice but to write. The thought of completely quitting would never even occur to me. Perhaps no longer making my work publicly available, but not quitting altogether. There’s a drive, and the act itself helps to keep me sane and functional. Something deep inside of me yearns for the expression that comes with writing both fiction and these blog entries.

For awhile I toyed with pushing Room 3 out to 2013, but I’m not sure that’s really the answer, either. That would be backing down in the face of adversity, and with the decision that I am about growth and expression, I will not turn away. I have, however, decided to take a few weeks off from the book to clear my head and sort of push the reset button on my internal critic. In the meantime, I can polish up the prelude to City of the Dead, now know as “The Station”, and possibly have it out to readers before my wedding at the end of April. One thing is for sure: I’m done giving firm dates for releases until they’re ready to go and it’s just a formality. Deadlines help me at my day-to-day job. They just destroy me in my fiction writing.

So…lessons learned from this whole thing?

  1. You can only force the creative process so far before it breaks.
  2. Listen to advice until it begins to contradict your vision. You always have the option to disregard any advice.
  3. Deadlines for editing fiction just don’t work for me.
  4. I’m in this to create. Period.

Make of that what you will. By the way, I expect the TESS weekly to be back this week! I had to skip it last week due to some deadline work, but I should be in the clear. Tune in then.

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7 Comments

  1. Awesome advice, especially about dates. When someone is giving you a million dollar advance and telling you that a story needs to be released on July 5th, 20XX that’s a different story. For now, though, a tale is finished when it is finished. I’ve taken to giving vague dates like “Coming soon” or Coming 20XX. Anything more specific is almost impossible for me. I can’t even do seasons correctly. Last time I tried, I screwed I up (albeit by launching earlier 🙂 .

    You’re also right about taking all of the advice out there on a case by case basis. Generally speaking, I take a pragmatic view. If someone is telling me that I must do XYZ in my writing, and I don’t see them on any best sellers lists, I keep a healthy amount of skepticism about me. 🙂

  2. Most interesting food for thought, Jonathon. Perfectionism truly is the bane of many writers’ existences. As you indicate, sometimes the “cure” feels worse than the disease.

    Hang in there.

  3. Laugh all you want, and I know you will, but I’m glad you see that you are too hard on yourself!

  4. You are in good company my friend.
    I think that is such a hard rut to get out of. Dangerous too. You know that road to hell saying…well I think it is paved by perfectionists. BUT! You know you are this way and that is the first step. I over-use my cousin the therapists saying–To name it is to tame it–but it is TRUE! We can fight this! I’m in yer corner!

  5. Glad you’re feeling better & that I could help some.

    #4- Check!

    I wrote for years before I even considered publication. When the inevitable question would arise, I’d say that I needed the writing to be about the writing, not about the vanity/marketing/money(hehe) that comes with publishing. When I finished Stolen Climates, I took six months away from writing. I didn’t know what the point was anymore. It seemed hollow and solipsistic to write and not share. Another six months later, and I published my book (about seven more revisions occurred in those six months, eee!). I have come to the conclusion that not only am I in it to create, but I’m in it to publish quality books I can share.

  6. And remember that you are also hopefully in it to have fun. I can’t remember where I saw a post recently that reminded me that I’m supposed to be enjoying writing. In the past, even when editing (although not as much), I was having fun. But suddenly with all the publishing/promoting, I noted that some of the fun (hell, quite a bit of it) was getting lost.

    Not only do I not have a choice about writing, most of the time I genuinely enjoy it. And that’s something I have to remember to keep in my vision as well.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

  7. oh that’s great work u are trying to do

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