Monday, January 7, 2013

Sage wisdom

Last month I had one of those "I hate this story it sucks" moment. It's not the first and I doubt it'll be the last. This one was particularly significant because of what happened a couple days later.

I was chatting with Lee Moyer after an event and as usual I received some unexpected advice. If you haven't met Lee, I should explain that not only is he an amazing artist, he's one of the sweetest men on the planet. He also has a habit of giving out unexpected advice and the occasional psycho-analysis to those he cares about. No really, he does and it's not annoying at all. He's says it so sweetly that it's impossible to be offended (which is good because what he says would be hard to hear under other circumstances). On this particular night his advice concerned the real reason as to why I hated my story.

I was being stupid.

That's not what he said per se, but that was his point. Lee explained to me that many artists, regardless of medium, reach a point about halfway to three-quarters through a project where they hate everything about it. They hate the flaws, they hate how much time it's taking to complete, they hate the concept...and when that happens, you have two choices.

1) You can give up.
2) You can press on and finish the project.

Obviously, option two is the right choice because no one wants to buy an unfinished project. So how does a frustrated writer get out of this mess? This was Lee's answer:

"Write the fucking sentence."

I have to admit, this made me laugh. He was so sweet when he said it, it was hard not to. (Did I mention that he's a sweetie?) I was also a little sad that I'm not a romance writer. If I was than I could take his advice literally.

But all levity aside, he's right (as usual). I needed to get over myself and "write the fucking sentence". I was wasting too much time and energy grousing about what the story wasn't when I could have been using that time and energy to make it what I wanted. The "if you polish a turd, it's still a turd" mentality wasn't going to get me anywhere and (as Lee also pointed out) may be crippling me. During the course of our conversation I mentioned that I felt pressured to write as perfect a first draft as possible. I know, that's a ridiculous expectation, but I only have a few hours a day in which to write and I've never been able to compose faster than 250 words an hour. Seriously. That has been my pace since high school. However, wonderful Lee pointed out that if I just wrote the fucking sentence, my pace may increase considerably.

So, with an optimistic mindset, I'm going to do my best to implement this from here on out. I've got nothing to lose but some old bad habits. There's no reason why I should continue to hamstring myself with an "artistic temperament". Besides, if I don't knuckly down and "write the fucking sentence" Lee will scowl at me and we can't have that.

1 comment:

  1. Right on Kim!
    I got one of those moments when I had to write my short Horror that is Thursday story at VP16. I was writing along, trying new things.
    "This is brilliant. My best story ever."
    Then I got to the climax.
    "This is shit. This is the worst story I ever wrote. No one will believe this."

    I did press on and finish. I did polish and then I sent to a couple of betas for a quick read.

    "This is the best thing you have ever written." was the unanimous response. However, I did get the comment that I was phoning in the ending, so I did have to rewrite it. But you must press on. It's the only way to finish.