About that Ledge

Anne C. Miles > Writing > About that Ledge

So, I’ve finished my first draft. It already horrifies me and it’s only been in the drawer for a few days. I wobble between “That’s the worst piece of tripe ever written by anyone, ever. There is no saving it. Back to the ranks of voracious readership/hobbyist with you!” and “It has potential to not suck. With a lot of work.”

My long-suffering editrix® has talked me off the ledge a little bit. But I have been given a few days to wallow in self-pity and I’m using them.

We’re all sort of friends here now, I’ll be frank.

It didn’t help that the winners for the contest I entered came out and I not only was not the winner (Really didn’t think I would be, though I did love my story, a lot. Felt that magic that I have attributed this madness to stirring when I wrote it and I rarely feel that. ) I didn’t score even 5 points on their rubric.

So I’m rethinking my life choices. Seriously. I have been.

I’m going to be honest. If six authors of that quality read my work and it doesn’t get 5 points? Why am I doing this again?

The question must be begged. Am I that off in my estimation of my own output quality? I must be.

This isn’t about being a sore loser. This is seriously about the fact that I don’t have the eye. Let me explain. I’m a designer. I have been one for 16 years. I have an eye for it and know what doesn’t work. I understand rhythm, white space and typography. I have a background in art history. I know what is working and what isn’t. An eye is developed. It takes years.

I wasn’t indifferent about that story. I loved it. I thought it was good, still do.

As a writer I’m okay with learning. I’m fine with the fact that I have a lot to learn. But if I write something genuinely good in my own estimation and it sucks. (No points = it sucks.) Well, I don’t have an eye yet. The road ahead of me just stretched, it yawned. Or we have wildly different tastes and I just sang a pop song to a bunch of grunge fans.

And I don’t know which. I really don’t.

I went through my list of winners. I judged the thing myself. There are only two that overlapped. So I’m considering that the theory “we have wildly different tastes” is likely sound. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an issue.

I do know I don’t want to waste the next 40 years of my life being a hack. So I’m pretty upset. I don’t mind sucking at it, I can learn. It’s the not knowing I suck and thinking I don’t which is distressing. It’s the not knowing the rubric at all. Not understanding why it sucks. Therefore, all of my writing until further notice and until I understand where the problem lies shall be deemed as rubbish. This, I feel, is the only sensible course to take.

It’s no good to say it doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. I see people all the time with design who should firmly remain hobbyists. Forever. That’s why the phrase “Don’t quit your day job” was coined. It’s quite possible that the learning curve is too steep for me to progress beyond “passable.” And I’m entirely too competitive for that. I won’t do it.

If I had made even an honourable mention or the short list, I’d have been encouraged and taken it as a sign that I was actually getting somewhere. After years of putting in an arguable amount of practice, that would be great. I don’t enter pieces for the heck of it, I do it to win. I entered that because I really thought it was good. I have to be honest with myself and say this is a huge blow. It is. I’m pretty sure I have lost all faith in my own ability to evaluate my own writing. That’s really really scary.

I’ll keep writing. I can’t help that.

But that novel is maybe not going to come out of the drawer for a good long while. Or if it does, no one new will see it. Let’s just say the number of rewrites has reached double digits in my head. High ones. I’m very cringey over it.

I had to look at why I’m writing to publish. And the reason remains the same, it’s because what I have to say about love and art can’t be said any other way and I am pretty sure it matters. I feel like it’s why I’m on the planet, to do this work. And I could be horribly, completely wrong. And I must face that. Whether or not anyone reads it, the act of writing changes me, helps me to see things more clearly. But that doesn’t mean I have to publish. I don’t.

Just like with my violin, I can enjoy learning in solitude.

So, hello from the ledge. It’s nice here, the view is stunning. Paralyzing, but stunning. I am completely ridiculous, I know. But I’m being completely honest about it. Leave me alone and let me wallow.

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