Be It Ever So Humble . . .

What’s the hardest part of writing for a writer, especially an unpublished one?  The hardest part for me is staying humble.

I haven’t found it particularly difficult to force myself to sit down and write every day.  I enjoy the process—of putting words down on a computer screen, of rearranging them to better say what I want; of adding or subtracting words that don’t fit or make sense, of cutting out words or paragraphs or chapters that don’t advance the plot, or show character, or set a scene, or reveal dialogue; of re-writing those same sentences or paragraphs or chapters over and over; of letting others read them; or of taking their comments back to my office and using them to once again rearrange and modify the words.  That’s never been a problem.  That’s because I’m writing a story.  I’m developing characters and putting them into situations where they have to use their wits to get out of.  That’s a caricature of real life.

What does give me trouble from time to time is staying humble—perhaps a better term would be realistic—about my writing, and about my writing abilities.  It’s tempting to think that the reason no agent or editor or publisher has wanted to take up the challenge of publishing or representing my novels (at least not so far) is that they just don’t understand them.  That my work is so unique, so avant-garde, so unconventional or experimental that no one understands it.  But I know that can’t be right.  In fact, that’s total, unmitigated horse manure.  They’re intelligent people; they wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t.  The real hard part is admitting to myself that my work just doesn’t measure up; that it doesn’t meet the standards that so many people in the writing industry have established.  Sometimes I feel my ego inflate to red-giant size and I tell myself “how in heaven can anyone turn this novel down?  It says what I want it to say, it isn’t derivative of any other novel, it’s been heavily revised and edited, and it’s been polished to the best of my ability.  It’s prize-winning material.”  I have to tell myself, “that may be true, you stupid idiot, but that doesn’t mean it meets the standards for being published.”

Now, I fully realize that writing and the critique of writing is a very subjective affair, and someone, somewhere is probably out there waiting to see my works and accept them for what they are.  It’s just a matter of time before I get an agent/publisher.  And I’m sure every other unpublished writer on the face of this Earth has had, at one time or another, the same thoughts, the same doubts.  But it’s imperative we get a grip on our emotions and begin to realize that a large portion of why we aren’t published is that our work just doesn’t measure up.  It’s not them.  It’s us.  This isn’t an argument for becoming discouraged, it’s an argument for being realistic.

Now shut up, sit down, and get to work.

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