(Hot and muggy here, storm’s a brewing, so forgive the churlishness ahead.)
Without fail, a few hours after I finish my daily writing I get a physical reaction–a whoosh in the gut–that is coupled with a discernible mood letdown and then I think, “What I wrote today was crap.”
This has been going on long enough–years–that I know to shake it off and resume peeling carrots or whatever it is that occupies me.
Often it is crap, of course, especially when I’m in the long slog of the first draft. But I know I’ll be less bothered by that if I’ve allowed a fair amount of time to pass before I look again, and if I have also accomplished something in another venue, say the kitchen, where perhaps a pile of peeled and chopped carrots waits for the soup pot.
This mature and rational handling of the whoosh and the writing blues works best, however, when I write earlier in the day. These days I rarely write early in the day. Morning–even early afternoon–has never been a good writing time for me, but for many years that’s when I wrote because that’s when the kids were in school. The kids are far removed from school now (which sounds like they’ve been placed someplace for their or a school’s safety), but I’ve acquired a couple of other jobs that require my attention (because people are paying for my attention) and so writing is item #3 on the get-the-job-done priority list. Therefore, the Whoosh and the blues often hit me late at night, when A. it’s harder to resist looking at what I’ve written or B. I’m roused from sleep or near-sleep and so ensured a night of bad sleep.
Probably the writing cry I dislike the most is “I treat my writing like a job,” a cry that is usually followed by a proud comment about dressing for the (uptown) office while being ready to go in the (home) office by 8 am. I let that cry haunt me for far too long, even as I knew it had nothing to do with my own professionalism. If I wanted a job where I punched a clock, then there are probably better professions than the one I’ve chosen/stumbled into/embraced.
Still, making writing an 8-4 endeavor would have one, enormous benefit: the whoosh and the blues would be easier to synchronize with a nice glass of wine.
p.s.: this is a very nice article.
Of course, we're all different, our processes, even more so, but I envy the folks who, even after a year, or two, or more, don't feel that the work is crap. I mean, at what point, do you say, "Hell, yeah, THAT'S it?" I know there's no answer. I'm fine with the gray area thing. But, at the risk of outing myself and sounding as if I should head to rehab rather than the writing desk, the only time I've ever felt that Hell-Yeah-That's-It moment is after a few–okay maybe three glasses of wine. I blame this on my childhood (not the vino use, per se, but the never satisfied syndrome). As a visual artist, I'm never (and have never been) satisfied because I know the work can always improve. Doesn't matter how many hours a day, days per week, months per year, or years I spend on the work. It can always improve. So I guess, that's the answer–there's still a finish line even when we have no clue where it is. Sometime, we've gotta stick a fork in it.
Cool post, as always, MQ!
I'm glad it's not just me who writes and then has the "this is crap" feeling. Mine usually happens the next day, which makes it harder to get back to the work and just write! I have to keep telling myself, "If you don't write this and finish it, you'll have nothing to make better." It mostly helps, but not always. A glass of wine does, though!
I get that feeling when I'm trying to get the damn words on the page, and just as soon as I hit that frustration it's like hitting the eject button and I spring out of my chair and run off to do something else! Or I stay in my chair and screw around on the internet, which is worse.
You just want your story to spring out of your forehead like Athena, all glittery and god-like, but when you compare what's on the page to what's in your head, it's like that flattened squirrel that's been on the road for a couple of weeks.
But I keep doing my best to talk myself around that feeling, or ignore it, or chide myself, or install a seat belt on my chair, or finally turn on Freedom to block the internet. Every day it's a new workaround, because hellfire, I'm not getting any younger.
I have wine but I keep forgetting to drink it. Maybe that's my problem.