Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Writer I Hope to Be

“It was only when I realized I was never going to write the book I'd dreamed of writing, nor be the writer I'd hoped to be, that I allowed myself to write the book that was in me -- to write no more, and no less, than that book.”  Quote from Heather Young, written in her post entitled “The Secret of Failure” on The Debutante Ball blog, Oct 6 2015.

This was such a wise and fine quote that it got me thinking about the book I dream of writing. It isn’t as if I ever thought I was going to be the new Virginia Wolfe or P. D. James. But I always pictured the book I would write as being lively and interesting. A book worth reading.

According to my reviews, that’s what I do write. My reviews are consistently good. I get a lot of emails from fans telling me how much they love the books. So how come that isn’t enough? Why is it that I’m not quite satisfied with the good reviews? What is it that craves not just good reviews but raves?

The easy answer is that I’m ego-bound and greedy. But that doesn’t feel exactly right. Yes, I’ve got some ego involved, and yes “more” would be nice. But I think it has more to do with an internal gauge that I want to satisfy and never quite feel that I do. The good reviews and the praise from readers make me feel good, but there is a secret part of me that thinks that’s just people being nice to me. Intellectually I know that’s silly, but my creative side always thinks I can do better.

Here’s how it happens: I’ll write a scene I’m pretty happy with, but then when I go back over it, it doesn’t quite read the way I thought it did. And that happens again and again. By the time the book is finished it’s a mish-mash of all those “not quite right” scenes. All those scenes were once fresh and perfect—in my head.

I suspect that most writers have that niggling inner voice that says, “not quite.” And yet every time I start on a new book, I think, “This one! This one will be brilliant in every way.” I know that isn’t likely to happen, and yet the ideal sits out there tantalizing me. I know I should be satisfied with good enough, but I hope I never will be. That ideal is what drives me and so far it has worked well enough. And maybe next time it will take me where I want to be.


Book Recommendation: Someone told me that she likes it when I mention good books I have read, so I’ve decided to make it a new feature of my blog. This week I’m reading In the Morning I’ll be Gone, the third in The Troubles trilogy, by Adrian McKinty. If you haven’t read them, you are missing a treat.


Marilyn said...

I can't imagine a really good writer (which you are) ever feeling that what s/he has written is "good enough." I assume the same would be true for any creative art. There's always room for improvement . . . but there are also deadlines which must be met.

Marilyn said...
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Patricia Stoltey said...

I agree with Marilyn -- I don't think any of us are ever truly satisfied, but at some point, we have to stop and declare a work finished. That's why I'm always very reluctant to go back and read one of my published novels. I'm afraid of what I'll find....