Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Give Yourself Some Credit

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One of my favorite quotes on writing is from Steve Martin, who said:

I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper. 

I think we, as writers, can get so caught up in the revising and querying and never-ending quest for perfection in our work, that we don't give ourselves the credit we deserve for accomplishing the huge task of actually WRITING.

Before I actually sat down and tried to write a novel, I had no idea the amount of work that went into it. I had this idea in my head that I'd sit at my computer for a month or two, crank out the novel, go through it a couple times to check for typos, and that would be it. I'd have an incredible book ready for publication. So when I finished my first book, it was a huge celebration. I was so excited. I felt so PROUD.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd spend weeks, months, and even YEARS agonizing over the exact right word. I had no clue that there were all these little "rules" I should follow, like trying not to use adverbs, finding ways around using the passive "was", cutting unnecessary dialogue tags, swearing off info dumps, building story and character arcs, and on and on and on.

I knew how to write. I've always been good at writing. But I had no real idea how to CRAFT my stories.

The problem was, now that I knew that writing a story involves so much more than just WRITING a story, I began to focus on everything I still needed to do instead of giving my self credit for what I had already done. Sure, I still got an excited thrill writing THE END on a first draft. But part of me was heaving a big sigh as well, because I knew it was just the beginning.

Yes, my first drafts are generally nothing more than guidelines for the "real" book that will be revealed after I cut or rewrite nearly everything. But I need to remember how AWESOME it is that I can get a first draft out at all. There are so many people out there who sit down to write a novel who quit four chapters in. Or who finish the book but never look at it again, never revise it, never edit, never rewrite over and over again.

And most of the writers I meet do this. They focus on everything they still need to do, which is good and necessary, but we need to remember to give ourselves a little pat on the back for accomplishing the massive task of taking a huge stack of blank paper and turning it into an amazing possibility.

Do you do this? Do you forget to give yourself credit for your accomplishments? 

Your task today - give yourself a pat on the back...'cause you know you deserve one :)


Christine Fonseca said...

Dude!!! YOU KNOW the answer to that one!

Michelle McLean said...

lol yes I do...that's why I gotta ask it. My peeps need some credit!! :D

Anonymous said...

Awww, this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today--THANK YOU!!!!!!! :D

*patting self on back profusely*

Meredith said...

I definitely need to remember to give myself credit for actually writing! You're right--it's so easy to get caught up in the stress of revisions. Thanks for the reminder!

Carolyn V. said...

I probably should give myself more credit. Especially since I'm in the middle of revisions. Thanks Michelle. =)

C. N. Nevets said...

I preach to others that they need to give themselves credit.

Does that count?

Michelle McLean said...

LOL! Only if you take your own advice every now and then ;)

C. N. Nevets said...

lol My wife would tell you in no uncertain times just how good I am about taking my own advice. :)

Matthew Rush said...

What a great point! Thanks Michelle.

Elana Johnson said...

I was thinking this last night. I couldn't write because I wasn't feeling it, and I finally said, "Dude, you've written 12 novels. Just write another one!"

Today, baby. I'm going to write today.

Melissa said...

I needed this today, more than I can possible say. So I offer you my empathetic, THANK YOU.

Mary said...

I will gladly accept your post as a pat on the back. If I do it myself my arm will be locked that way until someone comes to set it free -- living alone that could take a while.

I feel good now. Thank you.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Ah, Michelle. Thank you for posting this today. Sometimes I get in little writing ruts (usually when I'm editing one manuscript and starting the next) when I feel like my efforts just aren't GOOD enough.

But the effort is what makes me a writer, as opposed to a dreamer who thinks about writing a book someday. Now I just have to remember that when writer's block hits. :)

Ishta Mercurio said...

Ah, thanks for this. Yes, it is that consistent effort that makes me a writer. Good thing to remember!