Again and Again and Again

At the suggestion of one of my awesome critique partners, I’m listening to the Writing Great Fiction Great Course on Audible. (Side note: Audiobooks are my new jam. It is SO hard to sit down and focus my attention on reading when I’m busy entertaining an 6-month-old. Now I can get some reading done while driving, doing dishes, completing monotonous work. Hallelujah! I feel like I’m plugged back in to the literary world.)

The lecturer said something about revising that made an impression on me:

“When you reach the end of a draft that you’ve composed in a white heat, you can believe that you’re the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Then when you read it over the next morning, you can feel like the worst hack who ever drew breath. It’s enough to make you want to give up and go to law school like your mother wanted you to.”

While the lecturer goes on to suggest great revision methods, I wanted to say “SAME!” as he said this. Writers, have you, like me, felt these feelings on multiple revisions? Maybe not the going to law school part…one, because that sounds awful, and two, because mama knows I’ve always wanted to be a writer…but seriously!

So often that high of finishing a draft is deflated by my loud, obnoxious, know-it-all inner critic. It’s so hard to mute her. She’s almost always there.

But as heavy-sigh inducing she may be, she keeps me coming back to slash, revise, and fine tune. For us writers, isn’t that drive to create something better what keeps us coming back to this maddening game? I’m not sure why else we put ourselves through such rigorous work.

I think we know that we can do better than that draft, just like an athlete knows they can shave seconds off their time, or a saleswoman believes she can make better numbers next year. Despite how we feel about ourselves and our work in that moment, we know we can improve in the future. But this means pushing through feeling like a hack.

Let’s be real. None of us will ever be as great as Shakespeare. But maybe we can be ok. Even good. We won’t know unless we try. Again and again and again.

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