Monday, June 29, 2009

When Garbage Inspires

(see more awesome demotivators at

Quote of the Day:
If you are going to learn from other writers don’t only read the great ones, because if you do that you’ll be so filled with despair and the fear that you’ll never be able to do anything near as well as they did that you’ll stop writing. I recommend that you read a lot of bad stuff, too. It’s very encouraging. “Hey, I can do so much better than this.” Read the greatest stuff but read the stuff that isn’t so great, too. Great stuff is very discouraging. If you read only Beckett and Chekhov, you’ll go away and only deliver telegrams at Western Union.
~Edward Albee

I came across this quote and immediately thought, “Oh that is so true.” I’ve read books where I’ve just sat and shook my head at the awesomeness of what I held in my hands. I was filled with the desire to produce such incredible prose while at the same time knowing that I never would. And each time this happens, I have that moment of supreme discouragement. That thought of “I’ll never be this good, why do I try?”

That thought invariably disappears the second a new idea pops in my head, or the moment I sit down to write. Because whether I am producing a great novel or the worst sort of drivel doesn’t matter to me so much when I am in the grip of whatever story is clawing its way out of my head. All I want to do is write, get the story out, quiet the raging voices in my crowded mind.

But those doubtful thoughts will of course return the next time I have an unbelievably awesome book in my hands.

On the flip side, as Mr. Albee says, if I am reading something that isn’t so great, it is very encouraging. I was actually inspired to write the WIP I just finished because I was reading a book that, while I enjoyed it, inspired the thought of “Okay, I can do better that this. Or at least something just as good.”

And it spurred me to write, to start a project that would be better, more popular, and more successful than the book I had read.

To be honest, I’ve never read anything truly dreadful. If it starts getting too bad, I just put it down and move on to something else. My time is too precious and my spare time too limited to waste it on something horrendous. But it’s those in between books that encourage me to put all my effort into a project. Those books that are okay but that have you thinking through the whole thing, “Ooo, I wouldn’t have done that there, I would have done this instead. And this would have been so much better if this whole section was cut and maybe replaced with this.”

So, next time you start getting really discouraged…find a book that is complete garbage and bask in the knowledge that you can do better than that. Honestly, thinking of any book as garbage sends a huge twinge of guilt through my system, because I know how difficult it is to complete a book, any book, and I don’t like to negate the efforts of anyone. But, let’s face it, we’ve all read books where we sit in complete stupefaction that something like that could have successfully made its way through the maze of agents, editors, and publishers that exist to filter out the trash. I suppose that saying is true of all things…one person’s trash is another person’s treasure :) I am quite sure that someday, someone will be using my book to encourage them, knowing they could do better. But maybe another person will hold my book, shaking their heads at my awesomeness ;-D I’m not holding my breath on that one though :D

In any case, every book serves a purpose. Turn manure into a flower and let it be your inspiration :)


Anonymous said...

Great post Michelle. I was just thinking about this last night as I read a good - not great - book by an amazing author. Instead of the dread I sometimes feel, I thought, "Hmm, see - she wasn't ALWAYS an amazing author. She got better with practice - just like you." Very inspiring, and hopeful feeling

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Thanks for the encouraging post. It helps to remember that not everyone has the same tastes and everyone grows and learns. I hope that, though not everyone will love what I've written, it will reach the right people at the right time.

Susan R. Mills said...

I am currently reading a not so great book, and you are right--it is encouraging. I know I can do better than that.

Rebecca Knight said...

This is too funny! Whenever I'm feeling irritated about all my rewriting, I just pick up Robert Jordan ;).

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh, that's so true. I love that quote and yours too. "Turn manure into a flower." Now that's cool.

Kathryn Hupp-Harris said...

Oh, thank you so much for this post.

I really, really needed this.

*i think i can*

er, scratch that

*i know i can, i know i can*

Katie Salidas said...

What a great quote and great post. I completely agree. I've read books out there that make me want to give up. They are so good I don't think i can ever compare. Then again, I remind myself, I don't have too. I can be a good writer in my own right. I just have to keep writing and creating.

Thanks for the inspiring post.

B.J. Anderson said...

Lol, this is great! And I know what you mean. I read (started reading) a book the other day that I finally just had to put it aside after 100 pages because it was so boring. And I thought the exact same thing. I can do better than this! Lol, that remains to be seen. . .