Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday Musings: Getting Real With Yourself

Last week I found myself having some epiphanies, maybe. I am unsure whether they were epiphanies or doubts. It's funny how that can happen. If you've been reading along since the beginning, or if you know me personally, you might know that I was working on a novel. I started it years ago when I was in grad school, and for a long time I was full steam ahead on the project. I even was working part time so I would have more time to write. I was pretty far into the story when we moved to SF. During that time, I stopped writing. I abandoned it altogether, and the unfinished manuscript sat in the back of my mind (and desk) making me feel guilty whenever I decided to do something other than finish it. This blog stemmed from my desire to keep writing, but essentially it was also born from not wanting to finish the novel. I was writing something, and something was better than nothing. I have felt guilty about this unfinished business for a very long time, yet I have done nothing to remedy the situation.

This summer my husband "reminded me" that I have a lot of time on my hands, time that is perfect for finishing novels. He, generous person that he is, went to Kinko's and had a copy of the work I had completed bound so that I could reread it, get back into the story, and perhaps be inspired to finish. I started rereading it, and I realized that it is absolutely terrible. Suddenly, I saw all the shortcomings that various readers had pointed out to me. Suddenly, my voice sounded so juvenile and amateurish. Yikes. That was kind of an ugly moment. Now here's the rub.

I think that most writers are probably not the best judges of their own work, so I am not entirely sure if the novel truly is crap or if I am being unreasonably hard on myself. I am trying to be objective, as objective as it is ever possible to be about something you've produced yourself. And, objectively, I do not think it is great work. But, how do I know? I guess the more interesting question might be why I feel like I need to know.

I need to know because I am either going to finish this novel, or I am going to put my efforts elsewhere. I am starting to think that fiction might not be my genre. I love writing personal posts on the blog, and I have always been a personal essay writer, mostly just for myself. In my mind, a writer is someone who writes fiction, but maybe I can write, be a writer, and never write a novel in my life. Maybe writing articles for magazines is what I really want to do.

What I can't quite decipher for myself is whether this is getting real with myself or giving up. I felt this huge burden lift off me when I contemplated quitting the novel purposefully (not because I am continuing to hide from it) and venturing into other kinds of writing. But, did I feel that because novel writing is extremely hard work or because I realized something about myself and what I want to do? How's a gal to know? Should we do things that we enjoy if we are not particularly good at them? How do we know if we are any good? Does it really matter? I suppose some of these questions can only be answered if you figure out what it is you're hoping to achieve. If I just wanted to say that I wrote a novel, then I should certainly finish it. But, if I want to write something in the hopes of getting published someday, that's a different story.

How do we know the difference between being honest with ourselves and being scared or lazy? That's what I want to know. Any thoughts?

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