Monday, May 19, 2008

Crisis of Confidence

Why does it always happen this way? Why is it that no sooner do I get in the midst of submitting, querying, et al, on a work I truly love…but I look at it and think, “This really isn’t very good”? When I read the work, I’m fired up. Some of the sentences I read, I literally forgot I wrote. I look at them and say, “Darn, I wrote that!” But then I get into the submission process…and all I can see is dreck. I look at the first ten pages and think, “Well, no wonder no one’s taking this on. It’s dull.” In my heart of hearts I think I know better…but then I get to wondering. Maybe it’s due to the lack of any kind of response I’m getting on this book of my heart. Maybe it’s due to simply being worn out from trying to do too many other things, at the expense of my own work—the fiction writing I used to love so much. And I know all the platitudes; heaven knows I’ve told other people them enough. “It only takes one.” “It’s a numbers game.” “It’s a crap shoot.” “It’s part talent, it’s part timing, it’s part dumb luck.” Maybe I should stop reading ten-year-old MHC books while I’m doing this. You know, her books were so much better ten years ago, when someone actually edited what she wrote (as opposed to more recent work, which apparently is rarely touched). Those books. The ones that made me sit back and think, “Well, now I know what to shoot for.”:-) In a way, I don’t even have “idols” to emulate at this point. In this particular sequence, it’s just me…the book of my heart…and a bunch of query letters, for something I’m not even sure is any good anymore. It is worth noting that the last time I wondered about that, I won a Golden Heart with the material in question. So maybe when a writer is the closest to significant success is when she’s almost convinced she should just give in, bite the bullet and call that truck-driving school. :-) But I do wonder why it is that these second and third thoughts always seem to hit me in the midst of the process in which I’m laying my stuff most thoroughly on the line. Thoughts? Janny


Deb said...

In my experience, these thoughts come because you've dropped (temporarily, anyway) all the curtains we usually use to mask what we really want, under what we think we might get.

This is an unsafe place to go, but it can be very profitable. And going there doesn't mean your products are just means you're open, and unhidden, and feeling vulnerable.

Fortunately what we FEEL about our work doesn't have much to do with how good it IS. You are a very fine writer and your emotions don't affect that quality.

Donna Alice said...

Oh, yes, I know those feelings well. I'm in the midst of 'contest letdown.' This spring I sent my precious ms. out to four different contests. Oh I had great hopes for my children's books. But one came back with the lowest scores I've ever gotten on a children's book and some really smart aleck comments I thought. Didn't help that I found out that particular contest judged picture books, mid-grade and YA books as ONE category. Okay, go figure. The book in question had already won Honorable Mention the year before in a prestigious children's writing contest.

Then there was my grown up book. Okay, so it finaled at the Genesis which was a super boost to my ego. Then it bombed (well, not quite--my scores were in the 100, 90's High scores) but I didn't final in the Daphne. It has some faults I know but it's not totally hopeless. Now I'm wondering how someone else wrote something so super good it got those elusive 20 points that kept me from a perfect score?

Yeah, I know those feelings well. You just have to keep submitting and find the one other person who sees the glints of gold in your work.

See you in September???

Deb said...

We'll both be there, God willing and the crick don't rise. I think I can speak for Janny when I say we're both looking forward to meeting you.

Crystal Laine Miller said...

The thing is to write the book of your heart--write what you want to read! I know, I know, they say that, and then you get down because you're wondering how good can that be? But at least you liked reading it.

You can't write "to the market." If you do, YOU will be disappointed.

Take heart! You are a normal writer. The authors will tell you that they all have that "doubt" phase when they send it out and think, "This is the worst thing I've ever written," and then a yar later are accepting some prize for it.

Hang in there, Janny. Keep going.