Wow. Three posts in the same week! You folks must be wondering what’s going on, eh? It’s simple, really. I’ve taken a couple of days off from the day job while we have tile and carpet put in, and that gives me some time to actually get a little writing done.
And that brings me to the purpose of today’s post. This is one of those self-examining, reflective posts that will probably bore most of you to tears. But I figure if you aren’t interested, you don’t have to read it. And this is my way of getting some of the junk out of my head and exposing it to the light of day. I find that doing so keeps me from dwelling too long on those things I can’t control. Sometimes it’s things that bother me, and other times (like today) they’re just observations.
This time, it’s just something I noticed last night while working on Streets of Payne. I hadn’t worked much on that story in a while, so to re-familiarize myself with it, I started reading from the beginning. As I read through the first ten or fifteen thousand words, I felt like it was all right, but I wasn’t thrilled with it. Then I reached the latest parts I’d written. About twenty-five or thirty thousand words that I’ve just written in the last few months, and I found something new. I liked it. I mean, I was really happy with the quality of the story, and that’s not a feeling I’m used to.
Was it just a frame of mind? Was I just in a better mood as I read the latter two thirds of the story? I went back and re-read some of the beginning again. Nope. It still had a more amateurish feel to it – less mature. The latter parts are just plain better. And I came to a startling conclusion (though it shouldn’t be that surprising, I suppose). I seem to be learning!
I know, I know, that’s the goal, right? The whole idea is for me to work at this craft I’ve chosen, learning more and more as I go, so that I’ll be able to present the reader with the best product I can. I guess I just haven’t had the confidence to really believe I could get to the point at which my writing will take me anywhere. Believe – I suppose that’s the key word. I haven’t really believed in myself.
All right, before you start in on me with the pep talks, I’m not fishing for compliments here. I can be brutally honest with myself. There aren’t that many things at which I excel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m good at a lot of things – well above average, even. I’m a decent hand at rhythm guitar. I’m good with computers. I used to make pretty good knives, though I haven’t had the equipment (or the time) for that in years. I’m really good at self defense. And I am a pretty good story teller and writer.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. (-Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love)
But there are a lot of people who are good at these things – many of whom are much better than I am. I’ve never had a problem with this, because I’ve always thought of myself as a living embodiment of that old saying “jack of all trades, master of none”. But the jack of all trades mentality sometimes leaves me feeling that I’m missing something – that I should be doing better than I am.
Last night, for the first time, I realized that I am doing better. For the first time, I read back over my own writing and said to myself, “hey, that was really good!” I wrote something I was really proud of. I know it won’t be for everyone, but it genuinely pleased me.
Of course, then I started looking back at the first part of the story, wondering why it didn’t sing to me the same way. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out. The first part of SoP is basically five years older than the rest. SoP is a story I first began writing at the request of a magazine in 2007. I had sold them one story, my first professional sale. Then I pitched them an idea for a serialized story line for their next year’s run. They liked it, and I remember how excited I was when they said they would buy it. I wrote the first installment… and they went out of business. There I was with the first “episode” of a planned four part serial, and no home for it.
So I shelved it. Actually, I shelved the whole idea of writing for another few years, until Half Past Midnight.
Now, here I am, five years later, and I’m seriously working to get into the writing world. And the fact is that in the time since the first part was written, I’ve gotten better – I’ve grown as a writer. The fact that there is a discrepancy in the first part of the story and the latter proves that to me. I’m learning. And that gives me hope that I will eventually be able to look at my writing and tell myself that here, at least, is one thing at which I do excel. I believe now, that I can do this – that I will do this.
All right – I suppose that’s enough introspection for now. Time to get back to work. Time to get back to my writing.
Time to get better.
Stay safe, everyone.