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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Writing Discussion: When Your Words Stop Being Pretty

For the past couple months, I've been undergoing the process of graduate school applications for creative writing. If you're unfamiliar with the process (I mean, I was before I began it), a major part of an MFA application is the writing sample. It's pretty much the most important aspect of your application. Every school has different requirements for length and whathaveyou, but for the most part, fiction submissions are to be 20-25 double-spaced pages.

All that said, for the past few months I have been revising one story over and over to make sure it is the best version that it can be.

And you know what?

I can't differentiate between the good and the garbage anymore. I've read the manuscript so many times that the words have lost any beauty they might have had. It's incredibly discouraging to look at your own work and not see lines you love anymore. To not even know if it's worth reading anymore.

I asked some creative writing friends to read it and give a bit of feedback, but that was during finals week, so I never heard anything from them and I didn't want to bother them with it.

This is the point where I need to put a bit of distance between the story and myself. Step away from it. Work on something else for a while and then get back to it. The problem is that's not an option. Some applications were due last month, some are due this month, some are due next month. So basically, I have to submit what I have.

I was struggling with this a lot because I thought, "I'm never going to get into grad school if this story isn't the most perfect version of itself." That's just crazy talk. I am a talented writer. Obviously I have miles and miles of room for improvement, but the talent is there.

I realized I just need to trust myself. Sure, that story has stopped being pretty to me, but I need to trust that I saw something in it in the first place. That I worked to improve it. That I know, at least a little bit, what I'm doing. I need to have faith in my own abilities, even if it's just for that split second when I have to hit the "Submit Application" button.

No story is ever going to be perfect. Ever. So I think when you reach the point that your story is somehow good and bad and nothing all at once, you've probably done all you can do for that story. At least for now. When you're no longer able to see the value in your own work, you need to trust that it's there because you must have seen it at one point, or else you wouldn't have worked and worked and worked tirelessly on it in the first place.

Obviously, it's probably nice to get a reliable second opinion, but that's not always an option. And if it is an option, it's not always easy to ask for.

Moral of the story: writing is very hard. Rewriting is very hard. Reaching perfection is impossible.

LET'S DISCUSS: Does this happen to you? If so, what do you do??????

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read what I have to say and give your opinion on it. It really means a lot to me. And of course, I will do my best to return the favor. However, as easily distracted and scatter-brained as I am, please don't be offended if I forget to comment on your blog.