As creatives, we never seem to be finished with our projects. Most writers find it difficult to read their work after publication, because we are harsh critics. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell us they enjoyed the story–we always find something in our work to criticize.
I found that to be the case with Dissonance. For most of the summer after publishing, I was unable to look at the story. Five years of rewriting improved the book, but also had a negative effect: I failed to see its positive qualities. I had to be forced to quit editing and move on.
There’s good news, though: Time fixes that.
Yesterday I picked up my novel and read it one more time. I needed to refresh my memory to prepare for revising the sequel in December. I still found things I’d scrupulously change, but also saw improvement.
My writing has gotten better in the six months since releasing Dissonance. I spent my summer reading and writing, getting critique from peers, investing time and energy to grow in the craft.
Dissonance isn’t perfect, but today I can finally say I like it. I know book two, Serenade, will be better–because we’re always improving in our art. This was my first novel and I’m happy with the effort I put in it.
I look forward to one day reading the series and seeing my own progress.
That’s the great thing about art: We are constantly improving. We practice until someday we become a “favorite author,” or even make the New York Times. Those things might be fun, but I think what’s important is that we’re satisfied with our own effort.
We must find the ability to smile at our manuscript and show it off with pride.
Again: Time helps with this. I fell in love with my first book because I moved on and started a new one. I took my mind off Dissonance long enough for it to change from work-in-progress in my eyes and become a book. If I’d spent these months staring at Dissonance and not writing new stories, how could I see my progress?
It’s impossible not to be your own critic, but don’t dwell all the time on how you could be better. Instead, reward yourself for the things you’ve accomplished and go work on something else.
I learned this year that only through practice will I grow in confidence and start to really love my stories. Dissonance is only my first book, and in ten years I’ll be so much better! But I won’t dwell on that. Instead, I’ll enjoy the experience of writing, telling stories in a way only I can.
How do you handle moments when your writing feels awful, despite all the revisions? How do you value and embrace the process of improving in your art form?