Douglas Adams once described how humans could learn to fly. The knack, he said, was to learn how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. There you are, floating in the air. You could stay up above the ground but only for as long as you believe yourself able to do it. As soon as you realize that it was impossible, that there was no way for a human to fly, then crash. Back down to your old earth-bound existence.
This description works for writing novels as well. A short story, you can write in one sitting before disbelief has had time to settle in. But a novel? You have to get up the next day and keep going, which gives doubt time to creep in and get settled.
I find it best to write the first draft without thinking about what I’m doing. I think about the plot, I think about the characters, but I avoid thinking Hmmmn. Here I am, writing a novel.
Once I finished Sebastian’s story, I felt different about myself. I was a real writer. I had written a story. Never mind that I’ve over three novels under the bed already (3-1/4). Those weren’t real. The characters are cardboard and plot-driven. This was the first novel I’d written were the characters came to life and drove the story.
Based on the feedback I’ve gotten, I know some of what I need to do to improve the story. I do not know why I am starting to question my ability to do so. Maybe rewriting is also like learning to fly. I’ll try not to think about it while I’m doing it.
Joanna Bourne wrote that criticism could be harsh:
This is not putting a saucer of milk out for the tabby. This is wrapping yourself in raw meat and stepping into the lion’s cage.
Note: all the criticism I’ve received recently hasn’t been harsh. Not really. I entered the story in a contest and the first-round judges liked it enough to send it to the final round of judging. I got feedback on things that needed improving, but nothing harsh.
So I’m not sure why I feel depressed about it. I’ve received scathing criticism before and it didn’t bother me. I sent the beginning of my story into a contest and one judge responded by rewriting it as a parody. That felt like a slap in the face, but it wasn’t depressing. It didn’t make me start to question my ability to write.
Perhaps this feeling is not caused by my writing at all but by something else entirely. I note it here to see if it’s a long-term uneasiness based on something I need to change or if it’s just a passing mood. Regardless, I need to focus on writing the next story.