It’s been a couple of weeks. How y’all doing?
I want to share with you a video I discovered during one of my slogs through Google, during a period of creative self doubt. In this remarkable TED Talk, Author of Eat Pray Love Elizabeth Gilbert discusses the creative genius and its social implications and psychological consequences. It is a very honest, humble, and down to earth view into the outlooks of one of today’s more successful authors.
The video runs at about 20 minutes long, but I highly suggest that you take the time and really listen and reflect on what Ms. Gilbert has to say. If you are an artist, you owe it to yourself.
I really relate to what Ms. Gilbert said about almost trashing Eat Pray Love, because she got it into her head that it was the worst thing she had ever written. We creative types run a suicide mission with every new project: It’s a stress-filled roller coaster ride filled with writer’s block, creative ventures that lead to dead ends, and that caustic inner critic in the backs of our heads, so focused on producing the best work imaginable. At a moment’s notice, creative momentum begins to wane, and finishing something becomes a daunting chore when tantalizing fresh ideas begin to spark our imagination, but lead to roads of a similar fate.
For many of us, it’s a vicious cycle with very little reward. We start to hate our word processors, we start to hate ourselves, and it’s just not realistic.
Often I feel like the first draft has to be perfect — like I have to compete with the likes of Lawrence Block for whatever reason. It’s an absurd expectation. It’s a first draft. First drafts are meant to be pieces of shit. A first draft is the base skeletal structure for something far greater in the long run.
In maintaining a blog where I am responsible for both the duties of marketing the work I’ve produced and attempt to share some anecdotes along the way, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on my life as a writer. We artists have placed a great load of pressure onto ourselves, let alone the scrutiny offered and offloaded by those who on-look with a critical (and often nit-picky) eye.
I’ve been in the midst of revising my second publishable novel Helm’s Edge, a manuscript that has been bashing me in the head since around 2006. It’s in its fourth draft now (hopefully, but unrealistically, its final). Many authors reflect on self doubt during a piece, the inconceivable notion that somehow this is the worst novel ever written and I am the most untalented hack writer that has ever lived, and I haven’t felt this “truth” more than I have with Helm’s Edge.
As Ms. Gilbert exemplifies in her TED Talk, it is a normal process to experience as a creative type. The idea, really, is a very narcissist thing, for really, pure shit is in the eye of the beholder. Art is subjective, and I believe that once you release your art to the world, it is no longer yours.
Heiress: The Master of Monsters is no longer my novel. As of September of 2011, it does not belong to me. It belongs to the teenage girl or boy who, for some reason, is compelled by its story and characters — or is reviled by them. Soon, Helm’s Edge will meet a similar fate.
Master of Monsters is not a perfect book. There is a myriad of typos in the novel, and I know there is a paragraph or two where I’ve used the word “cryptic” in the wrong sense. I lose sleep over it, believe it or not; however, though I am ever tempted to go back and fix those mistakes, is it my right to do so?
For all I know, someone may find those mistakes endearing for whatever reason. What right do I have, in a sense, to metaphorically “Greedo shoots first” a novel that is unabashed of its human imperfection? However, it as as DaVinci once said: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” It was difficult to do, but I had to let go of Master of Monsters. It is no longer mine. It is time to move on to bigger and better creations.
In a bout of frustration some time last year, I definitively considered Helm’s Edge an abandoned project. Fortunately, I came back to it months later, read it, and found it a better read than it was a write. With some editorial TLC, I believe this new novel has some potential. It’s action-packed and it is reflective. It’s most certainly an experimental piece — more so than Master of Monsters was — but I very much look forward to releasing it into the world.