Friday, December 11, 2015

Are You Doing Your Best Work?

by Kelly Baugh

Unfailingly, this is the time year I have a tough love conversation with my school-aged kids. It goes something like this:

Me: "It looks like your grades are slipping. Are you doing your best work or are you already in vacation mode?"

I usually get one of two responses:

Honest kid: "I'm already in vacation mode. But it's soooooo hard! I'm tired of school. I just want to be done."

Politician kid: "I'm still doing my best work. I know it looks like my grades are slipping, but what's really happening is ... (followed by malarkey and poppycock).

Even though my mom hat demands that I give a little lecture, try to inspire and point to some foreboding consequence, I totally sympathize. As a writer, I have some serious doldrums-issues where if feels almost impossible to keep doing my best work. I think most of us do.

For very detailed-minded writers, I've noticed they hit their point of meh at some seemingly random spot in their manuscript where they are overwhelmed by all the particulars they feel they must share. In a sense, they are almost drowned by the details whirling about in their heads. I've seen more than one writer fizzle out on their manuscript at this point and turn to something else.

Other writers really struggle with the dreaded mid-manuscript sag, that part of the book that slows down between the initial conflict and the climax of the story. The exciting, juicy parts of the plot are easy for this writer, but all that stuff in between is a long, hard slog.

Editing can also be a real buzz-kill for some authors. Yes, they love their manuscript and want it to be polished, but they're ready to move on to a new, shiny story.  They've read this one a million and a half times, for Pete's sake. If they go through this
manuscript one more time, it will kill them.

Lastly, there's the authors who have pushed through, created a great story, edited and polished it into a beautiful final draft, but stall at the promotional level. Pitching to agents and editors, hosting author events, putting in their time on social media, these non-writerly events are sheer torture. These authors have a constant, whiney sound-track playing in the back of their mind which says, "Why can't I get back to my real love? Writing! I'm not a used car salesman!" (I know this voice really well).

Most of us don't have moms looking over our shoulder and giving us the tough love speech about our writing. That's why authors must surround themselves with other writers, critique groups and beta readers. And more importantly actually listen to what they say.

That last part's difficult. Just like a teenager, I want to roll my eyes and tell my critique group they just don't understand or my beta reader he's just not cool enough to get what I'm creating. Or I want to tell that nagging writer friend to get off my back, I'll finish that manuscript when I feel like it.

But just like I've never (in retrospect) regretted listening to my mother, I've also never regretted taking a long hard look at what my writing peers have to say about my work.  I don't always end up agreeing with them, but they usually put the wind back in my sails and give me the kick in the backside that I so desperately need.

Thank guys. Sorry I rolled my eyes.


1 comment:

Jenny said...

Love this post. I am definitely a "lastly." For Christmas, I want the magic manuscript fairy to pay me a visit and take care of all that non-writing stuff!

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