Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why we beat ourselves up as writers?

I mentioned in comments the other day about Richard Blaise on Top Chef All Stars. This guy is amazing. He’s talented. He’s creative. He can cook the bleep out of anything. He’s clearly a star and has basically sailed to the finals. I’m not great with numbers, but he couldn’t have been in the bottom more than once and he was regularly either in the top or a winner in the challenges.

He’s a nervous wreck! He’s paranoid about not winning. He’s shouting to himself as his food is sent out that he SUCKS! He’s clearly not good enough for himself. Now that can be an issue on many levels for a person – but let’s focus on the creativity element.

Why does a person who has clearly succeeded in his profession not think he’s ever good enough? According to his on camera interview… by not doing so it forces him to continue to work harder and be better.

Right now my writing life sucks. I’m sure there are some out there who know this feeling. Of course I’m alternately giving myself a pep talk then telling myself that I suck as a writer.

In the dark times I will try to pull myself out with logic. I’ve had 12 books and a novella published. I can’t really suck that bad. Publishing is an achievement so many writers aspire to and I’ve reached that goal.

But I’m not where I want to be. Which means I must suck. I’ve gotten rejected – so I must suck. I got a bad review – it’s because I suck. When I can step back and look at myself (I usually beat myself up for being fat but that’s a whole other post) I think… I hate that person. I hate the negative nelly who is always down on themselves even when they’ve accomplished something. Like Molly’s advice about really rejoicing in the positive because there is so much negative. It’s great advice.

But I also realize part of why I kick my own butt is for the reason Richard does it. In a creative and competitive world you have to be self-motivating. You have to want to stand above the rest because it is the only way to get noticed. You have to work harder and do more than the person next to you. I know as writers we say we don’t compete individually against each other… but well we sort of do don’t we?

The two Regency Historical writers, who are submitting on proposal at the same time, are going to the same pool of editors. Same with the paranormal writers, mystery writers – you name it. Chicken is chicken. And the best chicken is going to win.

Granted this isn’t done under a 60 minute time constraint with two authors pitted against one another as they struggle to crank out pages... but the result is the same. Creative people, going head to head, for a limited number of publishing spots. Only a few are going to make it to the top. The rest… sadly… will be asked to pack up their laptop and go.

The benefit of being a writer instead of a contestant on Top Chef is that you have endless possibilities to go back to the competition. But we also need to realize that if you’re not working, struggling and dying to get better, if you’re not thinking in your head about getting to the top… you might not get to the middle.

So I suck as a writer. Which maybe for now, that’s okay for me to think, because maybe it will serve me in the end to push myself to that next level.

What about you? Anybody else out there suck as a writer?

P.S. Happy St. Patrick's Day to all Irishmen and drinkers. And all drinking Irishmen!


Sinead M said...

Happy St. Paddy's day! Stephanie, such a great post.
It's a strange, delicate line we walk, a mixture of self doubt and confidence and both are so necessary.
The self duobt makes us strive to get better, and the confidence makes us write in the first place.
no one besides another writer fully gets it.

Karen Whiddon said...

Girl, even NYT Bestsellers think they can't write, that they are frauds. When I first heard one of them say this, I blinked and was like - Wow. My top goal and even when you're at that pinnacle, you still have self-doubt. Sheesh.

I get the worst self doubt when I get galley's back. It's acutely painful to me to read the book I've written at this point because I want TO CHANGE EVERYTHING!!! And, as you know, you can't. I'm usually reading through it and going "Did I honestly write this?" and looking back on my computer to make sure some troll didn't insert that awkward phrase in my work. Usually (ok, always), they didn't. It was me. I wrote it.

All you can do is push on, write the best damn book you know how to write, and sleep well at night.

And drink. Happy St. Patrick's Day. My maiden name was O'Corcoran. Raising a glass!

Maureen McGowan said...

I so get this post. I just got called out for doing what Blaise does yesterday.

It's hard to think we don't suck when things aren't going well. It's hard to think we aren't in competition when we get a pass and another writer gets a contract... Some days I'm not sure how I keep going. But ultimately I try to remember how subjective this business is and how much of it depends on good luck (all the very hard work and talent are a given).

And Steph. You do not suck. You are an awesome writer. Your most recent book got a TOP PICK FROM RT!!!

You rock!

Maureen McGowan said...

And Karen, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who does that. When I first saw my ARC's for Cinderella: Ninja Warrior, all I wanted to do was cut a paragraph on the first page.

And yesterday I discovered that my two books are the lead titles in my publisher's catalog. The first two pages in the book. And they have a 3 paragraph excerpt from Cinderella. A section that clearly both the editorial staff and the marketing people thought stood out as good (because they used it). And what do I want to do??? I want to edit it. I think it sucks. LOL

Eileen said...

Me, too! I suck, too!

What I want to do is change the "I suck" depression into an "I can improve" attitude. That's when I think the self-criticism is actually helpful.

My boyfriend is a photographer. Ten years ago, I thought his photography was amazing and would get a little irritated with him when he'd sit there and point out everything that was wrong with an image. But his stuff now is so much more amazing than the stuff ten years ago because he forced himself to be self-critical, but in a positive way.

Oh, and Steph, you totally don't suck. You rock.

Karen Whiddon said...

Yeah Steph - what they said. I've read your stuff.

You. DO NOT. Suck. Period

Stephanie Doyle said...

Ah... I see you've all fallen for my evil plan to post a pity blog in which you would be forced to feed me compliments... mwhahaa...

Seriously - we all don't suck. You know how I know?

People dedicated to writing/reading a blog on a regular basis means we're always seeking improvement. I know I am.

On a side note Eileen I just finished DOD and of course loved it. But since I'm a blog sister...

Can I have my own Nora and Alex story. No fuss or anything - just their story from their POV told for me... please? Pretty please?

Molly O'Keefe said...

I don't think Chicken is chicken and the best chicken is going to win - let's keep going with this analogy - if we're the cooks, right now the editors are the eaters. They've got two chicken dishes in front of them, one is heavy on the mushrooms, the other, you know it's tex-mex. Both are prepared by very very good chefs who do not suck - at some point, the editors personal taste comes into it - but then let's say they LOVE mushrooms but they've just had three other mushroom dishes - so they can't do mushrooms. Not again.

You don't suck. You know that on your sane writing days which for all of us are few and far between - but the business doesn't just reward good writing. It rewards good timing too. And luck - being the right project on the right day on the right desk. And that luck thing is cultivated by getting good projects out in front of editors - one of these good projects of yours - it's gonna find a home. It's not about the writing at this point, I really believe that, it's about all those other things that make this business so much agony.

Now - for more drinking - I've been home with my kids all damn day - daughter is screaming while I write this - where is my damn beer!!!

Eileen said...

Steph, do you want a little side story? Their own little adventure? Or do you want to see what happened between them in DOD from their POV?

It's not a bad idea for something to do as an extra for a website or something, you know . . .

And, you still don't suck. :-) Molly is totally right.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Uh no, Eileen I want a 70,000 word book detailing their romantic adventures and I want at LEAST and 10 page scene about what went on "that night"... :)

Can you make that happen in your spare time?

Of course I'm kidding... but seriously you should tell your editor... "e-shorts" are all the rage on HQ. I bet the Alex/Nora story would sell like hotcakes...

And Molly... you're right. I hope. Now go have a beer... it's St. Pat's Day!

Maureen McGowan said...

It's St. Patricks and I have a serious beer deficiency too. This must be remedied.

Eileen said...

I've heard there's a delightful beverage out there called "Bud Light." ;-)

Maureen McGowan said...

EIleen, LMAO

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