The last few weeks of my life have been intense. Not in the way you’d probably picture intense, because most of my time was spent in front of the screen, typing and reading aloud what I’ve typed, over and over and over. To my neighbour on the left, despite the number of times you’ve seen me talking to my screen, I’m really not insane – I’m just a writer lady.
And, boy, have I been writing.
For the fifth time, I’m done with The Physician’s Apprentice. Yes, five drafts. This is the curse of not planning and also not knowing when to stop.
A while ago, Hank Green made this video on productivity. His philosophy is to aim for final products that are 80% his best, instead of spending weeks and months tweaking to get the same thing at 100%. When he does this, he can complete more projects, and what is the best anyway? My best and your best are two completely different bests, right? And my best today and my best last year aren’t the same thing, because I’ve learned some new tricks and I’ve grown. Add the collective standard for best throughout the rest of the world, and the concept of best shifts just the slightest bit more into the realm of the unreachable.
I struggle with this concept. It makes a load of sense to me, but I find myself fiddling with the novel after basically every comment I get. I can’t help it.
Right now, I’m going reread it one more time, just to make sure there are no glaring issues. After that, I’ll send it to a person or two that I trust, then see if it needs more fiddling (and it will) before the final edit.
I used to feel inadequate and stupid for the way I write. Nobody likes to self-flagellate like me – Own Worst Enemy is my alter-ego. I get stuck comparing myself to other authors and can’t get past the point where I can acknowledge my own worth as a writer, because all I see is how amazing their prose and character development and descriptions are.
In the last few months, I’ve learned that it’s okay not to follow a plan when writing that novel. I’ve learned that the project I’m attempting as my first real project is a difficult one for a noob writer. I’ve learned that I learn about the plot dynamically, through the eyes of the people who read it. Their feedback helps me to realise things I’d have missed otherwise. And none of the above makes me a bad writer. It does mean I have to work harder than a die-hard plotter when I actually start writing, for sure. It means rewrites and reconnecting the dots and rethinking plots, but it also means each draft is stronger than the last. Besides, plotters work much harder than I do before they sit their asses down and start writing. So, in reality, we’re all working equally hard to get our stories out there.
The success of a novel isn’t measured by the number of drafts. All I want is to put this story out there, to offer a few folks a day or two’s escape from the real world.
Plus, I really love what I do. There’s no feeling like reading a draft and seeing how far it has come from that first attempt, two years ago when you knew nothing. There’s no feeling like hearing from someone that they really enjoyed the book, or that they admire the way in which you handled something. That last one is a little surreal.
The point of this post is to tell you that you have worth. Even when you’re stuck comparing yourself to others, even when you feel like you’ve been stagnant, or you’re not as skilled as others who do what you do. If you keep on working, if you hurl yourself headlong at the task, you will see results. Maybe slowly, but you’ll still see growth. Lock Own Worst Enemy in the closet – that girl is a biatch and we don’t need her around. Then keep on working.
I hope to share this novel with you soon. Even if it’s never going to be perfect, I’m proud of this one. I hope you’ll like it.