Thursday, March 22, 2012

Shot Full of Holes

Well, everything I said about the ease of writing fiction vs. writing non-fiction fell right into the dumpster this week. I took my story to group last week and the folks liked it, but found some fairly major holes and inconsistencies in it. I told them last night that I couldn't even look at it last week. I thought and thought and couldn't come up with a resolution for some of its shortcomings. I opened it several times and just sat there and stared at the pages. I stared hoping something would magically patch the holes, resolve the issue and tie it all up with a bow.

Needless to say I'm still waiting.

In the meantime, I went back to what I know, namely, non-fiction. I wrote about the house I grew up in; a couple of funny stories. What I've concluded is that NO writing is particularly easy. Some days it comes easy, most days not. Fiction, non fiction, poetry, technical writing, blogs, whatever. All hard work. Mind you, I'm not griping, just saying that anyone who thinks it's "easy" and "anyone can do it" obviously hasn't done a lot of it.

If you look at any good writer, they've all got horror stories about the cruddy first-drafts, battles with block, motivational lapses, creative dementia, and the occasional hatred of everything they're currently working on. There are days I wonder what the hell I'm trying to do. Those are the bad days. They're not often and I recognize them as unfair self-criticism, but I do have them. I would argue that most writers probably have some days like that, as well. (At least new writers). For all I know it happens in the other arts as well. Artists tend to be their own worst critics. I know I am.

The important thing is to recognize these inner voices and thoughts and quell them. Grind through the tough days and look toward the better, or, if you have to, back toward the good ones. Whatever it takes to keep honing your craft, do it.

I had an incident with my son Ben this week. He was working on a drawing in his room for most of the night one evening. He had challenged a friend of his to a drawing contest and was out to beat him. I heard him slamming things and groaning upstairs and wondered what was up. I went up to see that he had drawn a picture of a guy that was really quite good. The problem was that he "messed up" the mouth. His erasures of it had ground right through the paper and now the guy had a hole where his mouth was supposed to be. Ben was so pissed that he lost it. He threw his pencil and broke down crying.

I went in to try and console him and when he showed it to me I felt his pain. The picture was amazing, but the first thing I noticed was the hole/mouth thing. The only thing I could think to tell him was how my story I was working on had been found to have holes in it too, just like his picture. Holes that I made - inadvertently - but holes nonetheless. Like his picture, the holes were all I could see, and as a result, the whole story sucked. Like him, I was questioning my talents and wondering how I could mess up so badly in one area and do so well in others.

While I'm not sure it was a great comfort to him, it was the best I could muster at the time. The interesting thing was, that it was a comfort to me. For me to see someone else (albeit a young person) struggle with his expression to the point of getting angry at himself, was a bit of a relief. While I don't recommend it or like it when I do it, it's apparent that I'm not alone in my struggles.

I told Ben to start with the mouth next time so he doesn't invest 4 hours in it only to frustrate himself when he's most tired. It sounds like good advice for me as well.

Blogging off...

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