April 26th, 2012

Miang - I want to be myself

One Hundred Essays on the Creative Process (statement of intent, post #001 - critique + emotion)

"One Hundred Essays on the Creative Process" is just a really pretentious way of saying, "I'm going to write a bunch of posts about my attempts to become a better writer." If there's one thing I write about all the time, it's, well, writing. (And me, and myself.) And sometimes the best way to work out a dilemma is to talk about it. I run into writing-related dilemmas practically every day.

Also, before we get ahead of ourselves: these are not going to be real essays. I loathe essays! I'm not going to write formally. In fact, the writing might not be great or even good, because the things I'm trying to write about are hard to even think about, in some cases, never mind putting them up in text. I will, however, attempt to keep angst to a minimum.

Anyway, the words "creative process" can cover a lot of interesting things besides craft or advancement concerns - like, oh, how the Silmarillion is an awesome example of world-building (which is really about someone else's creative process)! Or how video games like Persona 4 have inspired more interesting characterization exercises than anything I ever had to do for my classes. (Whether they work or not is another story, but that's worth posting about once I've tried.) How about Aragorn and movie adaptation? Fun can be had with these topics. All of them can be spun to apply to my writing process. Story analysis is super-important when it comes to learning craft, after all. Victory!

Yeah, it took me a week to come up with this idea. Titles: they still evade me.

For reference: the 100 Things blogging challenge that inspired this project.


Critique is on my mind because I have to take the original project I'm supposed to be working on and start editing in changes, some of which were suggested or inspired by critique. Once that's done, I'll probably have to put it up again for another reading, because this is draft seven, and I am way too close to this story to see it clearly, at least in my opinion. As my "vision" has gotten clearer to me, the perspective of the reader has gotten away. I think this must happen with every long project I work on. I vaguely remember the same thing happening with my Summer Chronicle fic.

School got me used to critique. At the very least, I'm not a complete prima donna when I get the criticism I signed up for, and I try to thank my critics when that option is available. I try not to argue. I try not to give in to the urge to explain what I really meant by this passage, etc., because that always, always turns into, "this is why I'm right and you're completely wrong, and I just wanted you to know that." But critique is still really hard for me to deal with: I have to take a day or two after getting one to let the immediate, emotional reaction die down, because it has never stopped feeling like "there are problems with your story" equals "there are problems with you," just like story rejections can also feel like a rejection of oneself. It isn't like that. I know it isn't. Every time I've had the opportunity to play editor for something, my rejections have had nothing to do with who the writers are or what their worth as people is supposed to be. It was always just that the story didn't fit my needs.

Emotion and logic just don't get along. My emotions say there's something wrong with me every time a story of mine is imperfect, and lately I've started to realize that this feeling isn't quite the same as getting rejected / being a reject; it's more like the feeling of being wrong. It's like having proof that you're wrong dropped in your lap, in front of a bunch of people who expected you to be right, and their respect for you as a person is directly related to how right you are - or aren't, now. You should know this, the feeling says. You've been studying this for ten years and you still can't do it? You're a failure.

Every single story. Every single critique! No wonder I'm depressed all the time, right? I've never written it down quite like this before, and looking at the feeling in plain text makes me want to wince. But my preference for critique from people I don't know (eg. fellow students) makes more sense now; I don't care as much about the opinions of strangers, so I can look at their critiques with a clearer mind.

I hate being wrong. I hate hate hate it. This probably has its roots in family drama I won't mention here, but I mean, nobody really likes being wrong that I know of. It sucks to realize you made a mistake, and people aren't nice when they let you know it. Being told I'm wrong, especially about something I'm supposed to know or be good at, is like a punch to my Shadow-of-the-Colossus weak spot. All my life I've placed too much emphasis on my work as a representation of self-worth, and not enough on qualities I might have as a person. (Your guess is as good as mine, actually; I can't think of any good ones.) I have no idea how to combat that, so I have to try the secondary problem: why am I looking at a flawed draft like it means I've done "writing" wrong? No matter how often I see other writers talk about how flawed their early drafts are, I feel like my flawed, early drafts are just not the same thing and therefore not okay.

So with all of this in mind, my writing problem at the moment is this: I'm afraid to look at the last draft of the story I mentioned earlier because I know I'm going to see I'm wrong, and I don't want to. I'm afraid to see I've done it wrong. Really, I'm just afraid to see it. At all.

I can't edit this story and make it not-wrong unless I look at it.

It took me a month to figure out "fear of being wrong" is what was really bothering me-- to which I say, fuck that. Fuck that.

Except I still haven't looked at it yet.


Goals for fixing this:
1. stop thinking of being critiqued as being wrong.
2. look at the goddamned story and swallow "being wrong" if I have to so I can get it done.
3. I might want to look into the psychological issues associated with fear of being wrong someday, when it won't cost me $135 per appointment. lol insurance!

This is harder than it sounds. We all have our different perspectives and problems; for some people being critiqued (or being wrong) is no big deal, and I only wish I could be one of those people right now.