First, some music, taking you way back to 1978….
Wow, I haven’t been into Bob Seger since…well, I’ve never really been into him all that much; I liked few of his songs when I was younger, but it didn’t take long for songs like Betty Lou’s Getting Out Tonight or Her Strut to lose their appeal, and don’t get me started on Old Time Rock and Roll. If I see one more Risky Business, Tom Cruise-dancing-in-his-underwear parody, I might pop a blood vessel in my brain. Still, there are a couple of Seger songs that are not Automatic Dial Turners (heh, showing my age. I guess that would be ‘button pusher’, not dial turner these days), and this one is not inappropriate given the subject matter.
On a fairly regular basis, people throw out on forums and blogs the dread question, “What motivates you to write?” This is most typically asked when they’re feeling particularly down about things, or have hit the ‘saggy middle’ of their work. My answer has pretty much always been the same, and I did a post about this once before. Since didn’t label that post, I can’t find it now, so I’ll summarize: My motivation is that I want you to read what I write, and I want you to buy what I write. The only way for that to happen is for me to keep writing, to get it done, and make it good. That hasn’t changed from the first time I wrote it, and it still hasn’t changed. It’s still the same.
What’s also still the same, however, is the problem I have reading my writing. A few weeks back I received a critique on Barton’s Women from one of my valued crit partners. It took me a good twenty-four hours to work up the nerve to do more than skim the e-mail through squinty eyes (yeah, it makes no sense, but that’s how I always look at those critiques–through squinty eyes or kind of sidelong, or sometimes both). Now, there were some very, very nice things said, and the things cited as issues were all fair and, if when worked on by me, will make this manuscript even better. Now it’s up to me. It’s time to read it again, make more notes, and do some rewriting. And yet….
And yet, though 3+ weeks have passed, I find myself really struggling to crack the manuscript open and start the process. It’s not because I hate the manuscript–quite the contrary, I think it’s good. Unlike the name I’ve given to this blog, and my general approach to so much in life, I think Barton’s Women is good. Get-an-agent good. Hook-an-editor good. I’ll be honest, when I was writing the first draft, I didn’t love it as much as Parallel Lives, but I’ve believed for quite some time that this has much more potential for commercial appeal. (I could be deluding myself, of course, but I don’t think I am on this one). It’s also not because I don’t like the work of revising. Quite the contrary. While revising doesn’t necessarily match the exhilaration that can come with whirlwind drafting, the act of crafting brings a different sort of satisfaction. I like watching word counts expand and contract. I like the feeling of knowing I just sanded off the rough edges from a scene and have made it smooth and not likely to give splinters when you run your hand over it. There’s drafting, which to me is more of a rush, and crafting, which is a
slower sort of satisfaction.
The simple truth is, I just really hate reading my writing. Part of it is simple fear that another read is going to smash my dreams of agents and editors, of book deals and readers. It’s embarrassing, somehow, in a way I can’t explain. When I got my copy of Summer’s Double Edge, I read every story in the book (they’re quite good, by the way)–except my own. I looked at it, and reveled in my title and name in print, but I didn’t read it. I can’t. Even though I think that story’s good (and it was a lot of fun to write), and it’s been deemed worthy by an editor and been positively received by folks who’ve read it, I don’t want to read it.
I know, I know, you’re saying, “Get over yourself already.” I will. In fact, I have a half hour to spare in my day today, and I have the first 50 or so pages printed out, so it looks like it’s time. Just let me make some coffee first (hah ha, kidding!). Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.