Friday, January 07, 2011

It is not the critic who counts . . .

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spreads himself in a worthy cause, who  at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.  So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

-- Theodore Roosevelt

I don't like to lose.  I hate failing.  If I am going to do something, I want to do it well, and hopefully be among the best.  Can you tell I'm an over-achiever only child?

The problem is, I'm a big old chicken.  Writing is a new world for me.  What if everyone hates what I've written?  What if everyone thinks I've lost my ever-loving mind?  What if I . . . dare I say it . . . fail?  These are the thoughts that slow my writing and make me second guess scenes and character choices.  And the thoughts are getting louder and more frequent.  I keep telling them to hush up, but darn if they aren't ignoring me.

One of my favorite podcasts repeats the mantra, "It's okay to suck."  I've put it on a sticky note next to my computer, but the words are losing their meaning.  So, I returned to my favorite Roosevelt quote (which is above) for motivation.  It's helped, a little.

What does everyone do when their confidence in their writing starts to wane?  How do you re-charge your writing batteries and write the story that it in your heart? It's a new year, and my motivation needs a big old kick in the pants.


Anne Gallagher said...

The first thing I do when my confidence fades is cry. I take a good hour and have a major sobfest, tell myself I suck, extraordinarily suck.

Then I look at all the other writers on my blogroll, especially the ones who've recently gotten agents and say to myself, "Well, if they can do it, then so can I!"

I HATE someone telling me I can't do something, especially me. Type A personality and all.

Heather said...

Anne - I am the same way. The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't.

Lexi said...

I pray. A lot.

Because I have those negative voices jeering at me in my head, too, but I refuse to let them shut me down.

Bad news? It only gets worse once you get an agent and a contract. Then the fear really starts biting at your ankles.

What if I fail? What if I only have one story in me?

What if that first book was a fluke? What if people hate me? Worse, what if I get no reaction at all?

What if I my publisher drops me because I don't sell enough books?

What if, what if, what if . . .

But I've been given this incredible, unbelievable opportunity and I don't want to blow it. It's a miracle I'm here and I know it. I get weak in the knees every time I think about it.

So I pray and ask the Big Guy for the teeny tiniest bit of His creative spark, He who made the Universe and everything in it, including the moon and the stars and the duck-billed platypus. And I ask for guidance.

Praying always calms me and centers me and pushes the darkness back.

Because we cannot let the negative voices and the 'you can't do its' prevail.

It's kinda like Star Wars. Remember the force and tap into it. Don't let your dark side win.

Chris Bailey said...

Buy another book (Save the Cat! Strikes Back is my latest), take another class, attend another RWA meeting. Talk to another writer. We're here to grab your arm when you stumble. And I LOVE your stories!

Chris Bailey said...

Also, like Lexi said, pray. I write my prayers, longhand, and by the time I'm through, rays of hope light the way, and I can see that the monsters of gloom are only shadow figures. . . .

Louisa Cornell said...

I guess I just get stubborn. When I come to realize that some people don't think I am going to make it in this business it tends to tick me off. Then I get this "Oh yeah? Watch me!" attitude.

I keep a notebook of all of my contest scores and letters of rejection and that sort of thing and when I begin to doubt myself I spend some time with the section I call 'The Thrill of Victory' I read over the nice things editors and agents have had to say about my work. I read over contest comments about the things I did right. I look at my contest wins and finals and I tell myself "This was no fluke. Get off your butt and do even better next time."

And then I remind myself that this is what I was born to do so I'd better get busy doing it.

Cari Hislop said...

You are not alone! We all have one of those nasty voices. Depending on how I'm feeling I may do any of the other comment's suggestions, but I often find screaming at The Critic very cathartic. This probably works because I have no neighbors to call the police. It usually goes something like, "I'll show you, you... 'fill in whatever word works for you'. I find vocalizing my emotions really helps to clarify what's going on in my head and that helps me to be more rational when evaluating my work. Some days I read over what I've written and I think it's rubbish...the next week I'll read it and think it's great. Which part of me is right? It must be the latter.

Another thing to try is talking to yourself in a mirror. Tell yourself you're a good writer etc. Whatever we repeat enough times in our head becomes a subconscious keep repeating the positive. Look at your reflection and say, "I am a great romance writer!" This often makes me laugh, but if I don't believe it who else will? We can ALL be great romance writers if we have the faith!!!

Lisa D. said...

Confidence? What is this thing you speak of?
Honestly, when it comes to my writing, I don't have much confidence that anything will ever come of it. But then again, I've always been the type to not expect much so that I can be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed. When it comes to writing, I just think about doing it for myself, and if something comes from it, so much the better.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Over-achieving only child? I can so relate. The desire for every word to be perfect (even though I will still think it sucks later) is immense.

NaNo helped me a lot because I didn't allow myself to edit, and I couldn't slow down to think too hard or I'd never meet my word count goals. I had little notes on my computer like "Make a mess" and "Just write".

It did wonders for my writing, and I think it's my best work yet (we'll see if CPs agree).

I guess my only real advice is to keep writing even when (you think) it sucks because you can always go back and fix it later. Like The Nora says, "You can fix a bad page, you can't fix a blank one."

That has freed me more than anything. Whenever I stop to fret, I remind myself that I can always change it later.

M.V.Freeman said...

I get angry. Because I know I can write...and spurs me on.
If that doesn't work, I take a brief break. Read, watch a movie, work out. And I call a writing friend...

And then I write again. The point is to put one foot in front of the other..keep writing. Even when you don't like it or want to.

I read somewhere, that if you wait for the muse to strike you'll starve. Sometimes you just keep going til the Muse comes back.

You can do this!