High/Low

I am a study in extremes.

One day I feel good about something I’ve written; the next day I want to tear it up and spit on it and stomp it into an unrecognizable mush and kick it around a little after that, get my aggression out, make myself feel worse than I already do.

There should be a middle ground here: Certainly my writing needs work, I can’t deny that. But do I need to be so catastrophic?

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11 thoughts on “High/Low

  1. Dear Nova – I regularly read your trials with writing here for solidarity (it just does hurt, doesn’t it?) but you know you have got to get that inner critic of yours out of the way. It’s way too harsh on you. If you’re oscillating between highs and lows then all you know for sure is that you have no judgement on what you’ve just done, and you’ve got to leave it to one side and just keep writing. I hope you don’t mind me saying this, only it strikes me you are a very good writer, and I empathise wholeheartedly with the general pain that is trying to write! I say to my inner critic: Thank you but your opinion isn’t helpful to me right now, or I’ll make a note of the criticism in order to come back to it later, but for now I have to press on. It’s a constant struggle with confidence, I know. The very best of luck to you.

  2. Litlove, thank you for this comment. I know you’re right. There must be a way to silence that inner critic (even if just for a weekend)…

  3. I think that is the life of a writer–I remember one of my wonderful mentors once told me that a writer’s self critic (combined with the undying desire to write) is a writer’s best “bullshit detector.”

    That statement has brought me miles of comfort on those down days. May your bullshit detector take you far.

  4. Nova:
    i feel your pain and discomfort. I think writers must be the most internally harsh critics. I think i have at least mid-level confidence until i review/rewrite. When it comes to “putting it out there” i find i need to push myself to be ok with learning as i go. Stop second guessing yourself every step of the way.
    You know what…pain/discontent is an equal opportunity motivator. Use it to rebell against your protangonist (yourself) .
    Just tell the overly zealous critic inside of you that you would NOT take that kind of trashing of your work from another person; and, you will no longer allow yourself the freedom to beat up on yourself to the degree that you have in the past! (i too am on this journey of postively changing how i approach my writing).
    Writers create environments. Create one for yourself in which you review/rewrite after a time of emotional disconnection from your newborn words. Keep writing.

  5. Whenever that happens to me, I put my work down and focus on myself. I know there’s a reason why I’m suddenly doubting myself, and that maybe it’s not the piece that needs kicking/tearing but an underlying concern in my life that’s pulling me down. When that’s settled (and sometimes all it takes is a night out with friends or even just a few minutes hanging out with my dogs), I get back to writing, hoping I’ll regard my work with less doubt.

    Liz

  6. I’m not sure if this is really the best way to deal with wanting to burn my writing – but whenever the overly critical editor in me starts reading over my shoulder while I’m typing, I simply stop reading what I’ve written – only looking forward, until eventually I get, at the very least, a kinder quip, not all together complimentary, but at least not crushing – something like a little, “Oh, well, that last line is ok, I suppose” from her – even if she sounds surprised that I wrote it at all.

    But I never look back and read over all the stuff that I know, at that moment, she’s going to shred. I wait until I’m alone to do that.

    Yeesh. I do believe I sound insane now.

    My inner-critic and I will now go hash out my latest attempt at novel writing over lunch…

  7. Nova: I just discovered your blog via a link on Joe Felso’s Ruminations. You are a wonderful writer and I look forward to exploring your blog some more over time. I am a writer and psychotherapist and just started blogging. I have an inspirational quote by Martha Graham in my August 6 post that you should keep somewhere close.

  8. Ah, the ever-elusive middle ground–I hope you find it and that things are less catastrophic soon. Don’t forget to remember your talent & your accomplishments when you’re feeling not so great about it all (which is when it’s the easiest to forget them) because they’re definitely there.

  9. I can empathize with you here. I know that feeling. Not necessarily just for writing, but my whole life is like this emotional pendulum…swaying too quickly onto the other extreme, without me ever experiencing the middle part properly enough.

    I’ll say go with your gut instinct…more often than not, I feel, that meek little voice from our soul’s abysmal depths is quite right!

    Good Luck, and Enjoy writing!

  10. One way I deal with the inner critic and find the middle ground is to focus on small writing projects that are fun, written as exercises in imagination. Allowing yourself to noodle around, play with words and ideas, can not only free up the creative spirit but give you a shot of confidence.

    You’re an excellent writer, Nova. Don’t ever give up. : )

  11. I think that I agree about this being an integral part of the life of a writer. I think that these instincts are what make us work harder. They make us continue to strive to do better.

    If I thought I had written something perfect, I would be unwilling to revise. I would slump off, barely trying. It wouldn’t be worth it.

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