Writer’s Block and Self-Criticism

I had a piece that I was going to post today.  I wrote it last week and it was more of a journal entry than fiction, but I was happy enough with it at the time to post it.  When I looked at it a few minutes ago, I hated it.  So I won’t post it.

A few days ago, I went on a wild goose chase through my email to find some of my writing from college – which I’m sure I’ve emailed out at some point – that was lost when my computer was stolen.  I couldn’t find them, although today’s experience looking back at my writing makes me wonder if that wasn’t a good thing.  I hadn’t planned to post them as such, but to use them as a jumping-off point for more writing.  I seem to have come down with quite the case of writer’s block.  As much as people say “write what you know,” I know that if I sat down with that as my goal, I would write autobiographically – and that is neither my interest nor my intent.

I have one idea, but it needs research.  I used to be able to sit down with an idea and a pen and watch the words flow out, but it doesn’t seem to work that way for me anymore.  Maybe I’m just out of practice. Maybe it’s a sign of maturity – I don’t just want to write, I want to get it absolutely right when I do.

Which brings me to my second point – self-criticism, especially as it relates to writing. I am the first person to admit that I expect a lot from myself, and I get frustrated when I fall short.  However, I don’t think that this is appropriate in writing.  Proofreading, yes, but not writing.  Writing should be all about flow; getting the words on to the page is so much more important than making them perfect. Even if I only keep ten percent of what I wrote, the words (and subsequently the ideas) were flowing, and it was a self-perpetuating process.  The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write.

“Good” Books vs. “Bad” Books

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a voracious reader.  I carry a book with me almost everywhere I go, and when I don’t have it, I’ll pick up whatever is nearest if I’m sitting still.  I’ve read Shakespeare, Milton, Joyce, Austen, Marquez, and Alighieri in my spare time.  I’ve also read the Twilight series, most of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, most of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, and two out of three Fifty Shades books.  I think that most people (myself included) would divide those books into two categories.  For me, it’s the books that I would be proud to be seen reading in public, and the ones that I would hide behind and hope not to be recognized.

The more I think about it, the more this seems like an unfortunate distinction. Every book that I’ve read, from the very first, has changed the way I think in some way – even if that way is only “I will never read a book like that again.”  More than that, they all make you think while you read them; anything that can do that has merit, so who am I (who is anyone) to judge what is a “good” book and what is a “bad” book? People will read a book that is terribly written because the story is appealing, and people will read a book with a terrible story because the writing is beautiful.  Most people are drawn more to one than the other – I am certainly no exception.  I can easily see past bad writing for a good story; it is not so easy for me to be bored for the sake of good writing.  My favorite books are the ones that combine both.

That is not to say that poor writing doesn’t grate on my nerves – it does.  I come from a background as a writing tutor and proofreader, and I sometimes have to resist the urge to grab my red pen.  The reason I only read two out of three Fifty Shades books, though, isn’t that I actually did make a grammatical correction in one – it’s that I got bored.  At the same time, the writing in Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time was good throughout and beautiful at times, but that wasn’t enough to make me enjoy it.

There is a meme going around the internet with a picture of the Twilight cover and the caption, “This is what happens when we say, ‘At least the kids are reading.'”  I disagree.  I think it is up to parents to monitor what their children are reading and put it into the correct context, but I would much rather my child read Twilight (or whatever the derided teen fiction craze of the future will be) than spend their free time texting and watching television. And why should adults’ reading be any different?  There is a lot of merit to “At least they are reading.”

My husband says that I’m a book snob – and he’s right.  But it’s my own reading that I’m snobbish about, not yours.  It’s not my place to judge your reading material.  At least you’re reading.

Review: “The Map of Time,” Felix J. Palma

Rating:  2.5/5

Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time was the fourth book in my 50 Book Challenge, and it was the first one that was really a challenge for me.  It took nearly three weeks for me to make my way through it, and, if you follow my progress on the left sidebar, you know that I didn’t really enjoy it. To be honest, I really don’t have much to say.

I appreciate this book for what it is, and I really enjoyed the narrator.  The narrator had a wonderful voice, and I wish that (s)he had been more present.  I have a theory as to who he was, but I can’t state it without giving away major plot points.  It was interesting, at least, to have a novel that allowed formulation of a theory – it brought me back to my English major days.

My biggest problem with The Map of Time was that it took its time to get to the point, and even when it got there, it wasn’t definitive.  This may well be because this is the first book of a trilogy, but I can’t really see myself reading the other two.  That being said, if in a few months I find that this book is still stuck in my head, I will reconsider reading the second book, The Map of the Sky.

A Beginning (I Think)

One of the reasons I started this blog is that, for the first time in a long time, I want to write.  I have a Creative Writing Background, but motivation was thin on the ground for a while.  I’m out of practice, so every now and then, I’ll post snippets that I’ve come up with, both to open them up to something resembling a forum and to keep them together for my own purpose.  Feedback is always welcome.

 

I was laying on the bed where I’d slept as a child, watching the ceiling fan blades spin, when I heard voices drift in through the open window.

“I heard she don’t believe in nothin’ no more.”

A rocking chair creaked against the porch next door.

“Well, everybody believes in somethin’.”

I closed my eyes, sighed, and stretched my arms out behind my head to close the window as quietly as I could.  The voices from next door faded to intermittent noise and the words became indistinguishable behind the drone of the mosquitoes.