Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's All About Perspective

Bell Tower, Longwood Gardens
Perspective on our own work is nearly impossible to achieve in the beginning. We are scaling a tower and fighting dragons of doubt and incomptence to reach the prize at the top: a sense of self-worth. A feeling that no, I am not a delusional maniac with a multiply-split personality, but someone of vision and coolness and writerly awesomesauce.

That feeling lasts for about ten minutes when we actually finish a draft. Then we look down from the top of our completed manuscript, find we are dizzy and disoriented, and climb right back down to start all over again from the beginning. We repeat until we are so sick of that damned tower that we decide to go write poetry by the lake instead.

Eventually, however, we get jaded enough to gain real perspective. I believe that has finally happened to me ten years into my literary adventures. I finally have started to look at my work as... well... work. A draft is just something to be refined and edited like a report for my day job. This sounds callous but it's actually very freeing.

My soul's well-being no longer depends on someone liking my stuff. I know what I like. I know what sounds good. I know that there are lots of people who don't read the kind of stuff I write. Who aren't going to get the whole literary-fantasy thing.

One day I really do want to write a literary fantasy novel, about a character in another world getting to know himself. I want to write a fantasy literary contemporary novel, in which "she doth rise and toss the laundry into the washer with one meager cupful of viscous liquid, which when combined with cold water from the city supply doth miraculously make her clothing bright and fresh."

One day I shall write that report I jokingly mentioned on Facebook about how "68% of physicians are having affairs with their nurses and 42% of psychiatrists have unicorns to take notes for them during patient sessions." (I analyze health care provider surveys for a living. Sometimes you just gotta spice things up.)

Most importantly, I TRUST MYSELF. This is a huge thing, people. No longer will critique partners or casual commenters on my blog or Facebook cause me to rush to change a work I've slaved over yet again.

How did I get this way?
  • Practice. Lots of it. Writing junk, seeing what works and what doesn't. 
  • Talking to other writers, going to conferences and writers' group meetings
  • Reading writing and agent blogs. 
  • Having the courage to put a few things out there and getting some positive feedback from people who don't know me
  • Realizing how very subjective anything to do with the creative arts is.
  • Most of all... getting to know my characters inside and out. They guide me. They know what to do. 
As my friend February Grace says, "The characters are in control. I just take dication.


  1. beautiful, my friend. simply beautiful. (Pepper thinks so too. he tried several times to use the laptop to say so.) i hope i'm getting to that place now.

  2. Hi Pepper! Koko is too busy having her morning race over the furniture to notice anything else.


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