Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Is it Always Going to be Like This?

Hurrah for me! Yesterday I got an e-mail telling me that one of my short stories was posted on Time Frame, a new, online site promoting the arts. My story, a bit of flash fiction called On the Line, was first conceived last fall. I originally planned to enter it in a ‘100 words or less’ contest, before deciding to hold onto it. The story sat in a folder while I pounded away at NaNo and the novel that followed.
After putting my novel down to rest last month I dusted off On the Line and played around with it for a week or so. When I was finally satisfied I packed it a lunch and sent it off to Time Frame (DISCLAIMER: Two of the principals involved in Time Frame are in my writing group; I don’t believe they realized it was me when they decided to post the story). Then it was back to other things while resisting the siren song of the novel simmering in the cabinet.
When I followed the link and read my story, I wanted to be thrilled. I wanted to sit back in satisfaction and say, “Damn, that’s good,” but I couldn’t. I can’t. All I see now are ways to make it better, ways to improve it.
Is it always going to be like this?
I have a dream that, one day, I’ll be reading excerpts from my novels at bookstores, in front of college classes, on NPR’s Off the Page. If you’re a writer, chances are you have these dreams, too. It’s perfectly fine to admit it; it’s perfectly fine to indulge in a little fantasy. Chances are that it won’t happen, but I’m working on it. I just wonder if I’ll find myself standing or sitting in front of an audience, reading my book and thinking ‘God, this sucks! That sentence is all wrong! I used that word three times in one paragraph!’ Do writers every really get to the point of comfort with their work that they can read it and not see things  that could be better, that should have been fixed, or that never should have been written in the first place?
I suppose the thing to do is to look at the story critically, think about the ways it could be improved, and use that knowledge on the next piece even better. Maybe I’ll never be entirely happy with anything I write, ever, but maybe that’s just how we become better writers. In the meantime, I’ll take my accomplishments where I can get them. Hurrah for me!

3 Responses

  1. Hi there,
    Your blog is quite amusing. I agree with you though, what I thought was brilliant a moment ago, I now think is horrible. I'm afraid it will never get me through my first draft (I don't go draft by draft. I draft, edit that part, draft, edit, and the cycle gets repeated on forever) and ever find my novel presentable.

    Short stories are harder. I never seem to find an idea that would fit with a short story…

    I look forward to reading more of your doubts, though I wouldn't know what to say in a comment, but I'd like to let you know I'm a reader of your blog and I feel so relevant to your situation, just less advanced.

  2. Thank you kindly for your comment, RAdhika, it's nice to know people are reading and enjoying the blog so far.

    I think sometimes you just have to push something through to completion even if you think it's horrible as you're writing it. A lot of times it gets better as you go and the rough parts then become easier to fix later on.

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