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October 2010 archive

Objectivity & The Fact That I Have None

If you’ve ever tried writing ANY creative piece of anything, you’ll know the roller-coaster of self-doubt that you’re embarking on.  One minute, you love what you’ve written.  You’ll chuckle out loud at some witty remarks a character makes, or you’ll smile at a tender scene.  You’ll think, “Who wouldn’t buy this?”.   But just as quickly as you’ve acknowledged your masterpiece, a weird thing happens.

Suddenly, the next minute passes and the thought turns abruptly to the ‘correct’ conclusion:  This is crap.

Usually, once that happens, a floodgate of emotions breaks open.  I begin feeling embarrassed I put my name on it.  Ms. Editor is surely going to reject this and send me a letter saying “Don’t ever submit here again, you suck.”  Okay, maybe I’me being over-dramatic, but the feeling IS over-dramatic.  You start to feel like you’re a fraud pretending to be ‘better’ than you really are.  And when you can read what you’ve written and determine it’s not good at all, you almost feel guilty and rationalize that you can’t ‘fool’ an editor into believing what you wrote is actually good when you seem convinced it’s not.

But the funny part is that it may not be that bad.  What you’ve written may even be very good!  Before you descent into complete madness rolling a boulder up and down the same hill, you need to figure out how to turn off self-doubt and look at your manuscript more objectively.  Sometimes it’s only possible to control self-doubt rather than eliminate.  That’s okay – you have to start somewhere.

So the big question is simple: “How do you know if it’s just self-doubt and not nearly as bad as you think it is OR actual rubbish?

Sadly, there’s no one definitive answer.  But for me, it’s all about where my head is at which is helpful to be aware of but makes my own objectivity fluid.  It’s not static from one day to the next.  I don’t always think my work sucks, or I wouldn’t keep pounding away at my laptop keyboard!  But if I’m not in the right frame of mind to  be objective about my work then I realize it soon enough and I quit.  I just won’t do any editing that day.  Then when I try again the next day, it’s a whole different experience.  I can be critical without being demoralized and proud without being delusional.

That’s the sweet-spot or the balance every writer strives for.


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