Monday, March 11, 2013

The Craptastic Early Years: When Taste Exceeds Talent

Just to recap: I have been working on this book for about two years now.  I took almost a whole year to explore the concept and characters, and then began the actual writing about a year ago.  Why has it taken so long, you ask?  Because I move at the pace of a sloth; to get into the mindset of writing and shut out the laundry piling up, dishes in the sink, crumbs on the counters, toys on the floor and dust on every piece of furniture we own takes a herculean amount of effort for me.  Needless to say, I would be elated to finish this draft and put some space between us.  (My neglected house and family would be just as elated, I'm sure)

So when I sit down to write and find that the only thing coming out of me is pure garbage spewed onto the page, I get upset; so upset that I cannot continue.  I then decide, to the dismay of writing gurus everywhere, to go back and reread some of the story.  What do I find?

MORE CRAP.

Pure word vomit, splattered everywhere.  Hello, my name is Amy, and right now I hate everything I have written.  What I really want to do is delete the entire thing and start over from scratch.  Thankfully, my better judgement stepped in and directed me, instead, to some wonderful resources on the interweb.

I consulted the wise Jane Friedman and her plethora of writing advice.   I found a post titled, "You Hate Your Writing?  That's A Good Sign" and lit up at the happy coincidence.  She describes a video series on YouTube from Ira Glass on story telling.  I dutifully clicked on the link and watched the series.  I would highly recommend watching this, whether you are a writer in crisis or not. 

He is talking about broadcasting in particular, but it does apply to any creative endeavor, really.  He says that when you are just starting out in the creative process, what you are producing is crap.  This is normal to produce crap and everyone does.  You have to push through the crap to get to the good stuff.  He also says that the fact that you know it's crap is a good sign.  Your taste is good, if not great, and that is what made you jump into the creative fray to begin with.  You can see, with your good taste, that what you are producing is not living up to that and disappointing you.  With practice, you will close the gap between taste and talent, but for now, be satisfied in the garbage and don't give up.

I cannot tell you how uplifting it was to come across this.  I knew, starting out, that I wasn't going to just type excellence on my computer every day and finish a perfect book instantly.  But when you're stuck in the middle of a long process, it can be hard to see any kind of closure and push through to get to it.

If you are in a similar place this morning and feel you would rather claw your eyes out than continue writing the same trash you have been writing since, oh, the first time you picked up a pen, know that you are not alone in your craptastic early years and that it just means you have exceptional taste.