This week’s prompt is “an emotion and its opposite.” Now, the obvious one is love/hate, and that would be an easy one to explore. As a writer, I swing back and forth between loving and hating my work like the tides. Hell, I swing back and forth between loving and hating the craft. But love/hate is obvious.
No, the dichotomy that seems most apt to me is confidence/doubt. These two phases, like the peaks and troughs of a ray of ultraviolet light, alternate with alarming alacrity (triple alliteration bonus, whee).
One minute, I feel at home in the me who is on this adventure. I know what I’m doing. I’m staying smart, looking sharp, making good decisions. Every new bit of text is a good one. Every cut makes perfect sense. Every edit improves the whole. There is no shaking me off the course I’m on as I work inexorably toward writing the best inaugural novel that’s ever been written.
Then the light goes out, and I remember that I’m miles deep in an unfamiliar jungle with the dark rustle of foreboding creatures of the night on all sides of me. That bit of dialogue I thought was scorchingly clever the first time around seems a bit hackneyed upon further review. The character arc I’ve worked so hard to create feels like a flamingo on roller skates; all awkward angles and feathers crashing everywhere. The cut that felt so necessary when I made it now looks like a gaping wound, and the patient is bleeding out.
Then I stop working for a while, and by the time I come back to the novel, I feel like I could drive nails with my forehead again.
Do any other writers suffer from the same up-and-down, hot-and-cold, bulletproof-then-made-of-glass feeling? Do all of them? I have a hard time believing that my sentiments on writing are unique, but by the same token, not every writer can be so schizophrenic.
In fairness, though, the ride is pretty fun. There’s something to be said for riding the roller coaster til you throw up the oversized cotton candy you just horked down while you were waiting in line. Then wiping the pink fizz from your lips and lining up for another turn. Some might call that crazy.
No, that would be me. I’d call that crazy. I’m too old for that sharknado. But the writing, okay. I can handle the swings of that ride.
This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.
3 thoughts on “To Extremes”
I wonder that, too: do all writers alternate between confidence and doubt? Maybe it depends on how successful they’ve been? I think it varies from author to author. Did Dickens doubt himself? Did Milton? I would guess not?
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Good questions. In interviews, several actors say there is still doubt even at the highest stages of their careers. Also, the landscape was totally different in the time of Dickens and Milton, when not as many people were widely read — and certainly not as many had the luxury of writing for an audience. Less competition = less doubt?
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That is a good point: it is both easier — and, harder– to be a writer today than it was 150 years ago: easier, because of improvements in literacy, technology, and standard of living; harder, because, as you say, there is so much more competition. Also, so many great writers have gone before that it can feel as if nothing new can be said. So many variables have changed that the question — have writers always doubted the merits of their work? — can hardly be answered.