It happens. And it’s miserable when it does.
A weekend of intense, hard-won work that, on the re-read, is hollow and false. The page is full of spikes, speedbumps, potholes. The chapter is flawed and full of overblown ideas and cringeworthy clichés. No objectivity will make itself known. No decision—paragraph, word or punctuation—will allow itself to be made. The sense is there, but it makes no sense. The logic is there, but it is illogical.
The writer has committed to a direction. The direction has sailed the story straight into a doldrum where no wind lifts the sails, no current stirs the keel.
Has he weekend served up one fragment of the right thing? Or has the whole effort been one colossal waste of time?
Those caution bells in the head…that dissatisfaction: how much is the pesky, undermining doubt that sits on every writer’s shoulder? How much of it is me telling myself something I should actually be listening to?
In this place, the name-calling starts. Hack. Dellusionist. Talentless nothing. Naive amateur. What in hell makes you think that you can write at all?
One doesn’t have doubts like these to invite reassurance from friends. That reassurance is wonderful, but it doesn’t—can’t—wrest the words from the head and lay them onto the page in any way that will make the feelings go away Only the work itself can do that.
Stop. Step back. Days like these…they happen.
Why should a writer expect anything else? Go to the well minute after minute, day after day, the well goes dry until it has the chance to replenish. Getting distance from the moment is the only thing that gives the wounded thoughts a chance to heal.
The prayer for objectivity. The treating of one’s own head as friend, not enemy. The knowledge that, in this plastic state, the stuff is still are malleable enough to change. Part of the writer understands this, is okay with this. Part will always remain in doubt. Part will continue to be a hater. Finding the place where all three parts can coexist peacefully and in balance—that’s the tricky thing. And that’s the extracurricular skill that this writer must cultivate. To pull one’s nose up out of the crazy dive.