Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Right Balance to Write

There are two realities every writer needs to know. So I read a tweet in my twitter stream the other day.

1) You will never make every reader happy.
2)You will never make yourself completely happy. (because the end product never quite lives up to the vision)

I agree on both accounts but the first reality never has plague me much. I can handle both criticism and a discerning viewpoint. My years as a high school football ref here in Texas were great for teaching me that skill. Matter of fact I wish people were more direct and blunt in their criticism for it is easier to see where they are coming from and sometimes even agree and fix the problem when it is clearly stated.

That second reality has plagued me the last few years. Back when I first started writing it was all enthusiasm and bluster. I wrote hoping but not truly expecting others would read my words. As I have found a measure of success over the years I now expect, though I am at times disappointed, that whatever I'm writing will see the light of day. With that expectation comes an innate pressure to make it absolutely perfect. To make the story and characters on paper every bit as alive and vibrant as the they are in the movie running through my brain.

And that my friends is an impossible task. As the author I will always know more about the story and its inhabitants than my readers. I understand this, but I struggle with the paradox. And this struggle has turned me into a very slow writer. Which is why there has been no follow up to THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES despite the fine folks over at TAG Publishing urging me on. It is why I migrated away from the blog. It is why I have a handful of projects in various stages of incompleteness.

But I'm not going to let this self imposed pressure define me or stop me from writing. I'm going to find a way to face the reality that no story I ever write will feel totally complete in my mind.

I know I am not alone. Many authors have battled such feelings. Perhaps that is why so many authors are known alcoholics.

Truman Capote once said, "I drink , because that's the only way I can stand it."

Edgar Allan Poe lived to see his 40th birthday but barely and while the exact cause of his death is unknown alcohol, drugs, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other causes have been cited.

O Henry, the master of the twist died an alcoholic at 48.

The list goes on and on. Faulkner, Bukowski, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, and of course Hemingway.

I am not trying to compare myself to any of these writers as they certainly had way more pressure and expectations on their shoulders. I am saying I understand where their compulsion to drink just might have came from. Of course the world is stocked full of drunkards without a drop of literary ambition so perhaps I am reaching here.

I guess this post is as much for myself and my close writing friends as much as anything. May it serve as a reminder perfection is not why we began writing, but excitement. Enthusiasm for telling a good story And that should not change regardless if but a few, or many happen to read our creations. 


Debra She Who Seeks said...

When writers have a hit novel and become hugely popular, their subsequent stuff is often rushed and not as good because they are writing to their publisher's schedule, not their own. Or they bring in "co-authors" or ghostwriters to pump the stuff out in a never-ending stream. Either way, quality suffers due to the power of the almighty buck.

DeBie Hive said...

I think we're all conflicted almost all the time, it's one personality trait I seem to have in common with all the other writers I know. That, and we tend to drink and have fairly messed up life stories. Gives us more material, right?

G. B. Miller said...

Ain't that the true.

My enthusiam for my writing is still there, although at times, it does seem to take ill-advised vacations.

But be that as it may, I definitely wouldn't have it any other way.

Angie said...

I agree that the desire to have every word perfect before you send a story out the door is more destructive than anything else. [nod]

A related point to remember is that, if your goal is to improve as a writer rather than just improving a single story, you learn more from writing five stories than you do from rewriting one story five times. Writers who get stuck in the rut of rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, polish, polish, polish, not only tend to scrub off all the quirks and original bits that make their writing theirs, they also progress as writers much more slowly than writers who focus on writing a story and then moving on to the next one.


Cloudia said...

I just go into a shamanic state and when I come out, there is writing!
(sort of)

ALOHA from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° > <3

the walking man said...

Travis, just tell the goddamn story and quit thinking about perfection. If it sucks ass it will probably be a hit but then I think you are more intent on pleasing the reader. That is either a slow ride or a fast one as you let go the reins and let the horse do the work of getting you across the plains.

the walking man said...

By the by Bukowski lived to be 84 and died in his sleep from complications of kidney failure he had quit alcohol in the mid 70's. But you have to admit he was his most amusing when writing hungover but his best work from a literary standpoint came after. Look up his Poems on writing and his one Love poem that I know if CONFESSION.

Aimless Writer said...

In my own tortures at trying to write unwind with little to show I often think of the great writers and think; I know why they drank.
Then I want a drink but I don't think it will help.
I've locked myself in my writer's cave today to get SOMETHING done. Yet here I sit on your blog....

Charles Gramlich said...

Too often I come to my work now without that excitement and it really does drag on one. That's one reason I tend to write whatever I want to write when I want it, instead of striving for contracts with major houses where I'd be more circumscribed in my work.

Karin Huddleston said...

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one that feels that way. I mean its prevented me from finishing anything in how long?

just dont give up! (I loved your lettuce is the devil entry btw, and am looking forward to seeing that one published!)