Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Battle On!

Resistance is anything that keeps us from doing art. And Resistance is evil.

I learned this from Steven Pressfield in his book, The War of Art. I've written about his book before. Such a powerful tool for those of us who are driven to create art but don't necessarily have the heart of a lion or the skin of a hippo.

I have known rejection. I felt it in my gut, and without saying the words, vowed to avoid that feeling again.

It hurt.

I have also come face to face with Resistance, even when I was experiencing "success." There is something about beauty and truth that Resistance can't tolerate.

Most recently, Resistance has gotten brazen. He shouts rather than whispers in my ear that what I'm creating is icky poo-poo. This makes going to critique group similar to standing in line to be flayed. Ouch!

The key, according to Pressfield and experienced by moi, is to separate myself from my work.

I am me, the creator of stories. My stories are something I make, not me, not flesh and bone, certainly not my children. And my work always benefits from skilled eyes evaluating and guiding. This is why authors gush about the help they've had along the way in their acknowledgements.

We don't write in a vacuum, people.

Creating stories to send out into the world may be the most courageous thing we ever do, and we must do the telling with our whole hearts and souls.

Or who will care?

Battle on!

(I recommend Mr. Pressfield's book as a daily devotional for writers, especially if you need a swift kick in the pants now and again. The "chapters" are very short, sometimes not even a page long. BTW, I don't get a cut.)

How good are you at separating yourself from your work? Is critiquing something you welcome or something you dread? Is having someone point out a flaw in logic in your work a source of celebration or a crushing defeat? In what form does Resistance come to you?


Susie Finkbeiner said...

THANK YOU for saying that your stories aren't your children. I've long said/believed that too. My kids are far dearer than my stories and I would backhand anyone who dare try to give my children a star rating.

Over the past 7 or so years I've grown a thicker skin. Rejection STINKS. It hurts. But it isn't the worst thing in all the world. And, I've learned, sometimes it makes me a better writer.

My first major rejection was from an MFA program. It was the least gracious rejection letter I could imagine. I entertained the thought that, like the letter suggested, a writer I was not. But then I got angry and turned that energy into the drive to prove that so-and-so letter writer wrong.

Rejection pushed me forward in my writing life.

It's strange to say, but it's true. That rejection changed my life for the better.

I will also say that Steve Laube writes the kindest "no thank you" letters. He encouraged me to keep writing. He told me I had a spark. That letter also changed my life. I kept that one.

Patti Hill said...
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Sharon K. Souza said...

Patti, I'm in the throes of the very thing you're talking about. I'm hoping the process makes my ms better than it is, and makes it acceptable to an eager editor out there somewhere!

Patti Hill said...

Susie, that's exactly what "rejection" should do for you. Motivation to improve your craft sometimes comes as a warm wind and sometimes as an arctic blast (as you well know), but it's the end product that matters.

By all means keep the kindly worded rejection notes. They are lovely reminders that talented people are on your side and see your potential.

Sharon: With your talent and willingness, your ms has a great chance of finding an enthusiastic editor. Woohoo!

Henrietta Frankensee said...

If a piece of me is diseased then I want it gone or healed. That's the way I look at editing. Resistance is still strong. That was me! I cry as I look at the chunk of flesh in the test tube. I laboured over those words/that scene! I cry as the delete key eats my characters. But the whole unit is better off without the lost part. I am closer to health and my story is closer to being understood and loved. Onward and upward! My best cure for resistance is looking at the big picture.

Patti Hill said...

Well said, Henrietta!