We write with three angels beside us, always.
One is a good angel who praises us and forgives us and revels in our work. This is the angel who approaches the page like a kid in a candy store of words; who delights in a well-wrought passage and can’t wait for the next one.
The next is an even-tempered angel of Contentment. This balanced being gives us the gift of perspective; she recognizes the ups and downs of the creative process, and graciously allows us to exist comfortably between the two.
And then there’s the bad angel.
This is the hopeless angel. The discouraging angel. The mean-friend angel. The angel who shoves our other angels out of the way and fills us with poison.
When this angel visits, she owns us; leaves no room in us for anything else. If the story is good, the bad angel doesn’t want us to know it: If one part of the story is less than good, this angel has the power to tell us that the rest of the tale is bad.
The bad angel asks “What makes you think you can write?” …or tells us “You write well enough, but you can’t plot for shit.” The bad angel tells us that no amount of work will save the thing…and that, oh, by the way, there isn’t enough time in the world to fix what’s broken. The bad angel is the angel of no promise, no future, no reason to go on.
The bad angel tells us that it’s not the idea that’s wrong—it’s us.
The bad angel visits without warning and throws the work into chaos…and leaves when it is damned good and ready. The bad angel sounds like an agent who doesn’t get it…no matter how many readers have told us that the story has moved them. The bad angel creates praise-addicts and leaves us desperate when the praise is slow to come.
And the most difficult, most confusing thing: The bad angel is the one we’re most willing to listen to.
I know myself well enough to know that the bad angel won’t hang around forever (although, clearly, I don’t know enough to keep the bastard from bothering me in the first place.) In the meantime, patience. Patience. I’ll try to find a way to shut my thoughts away from the ugly impositions. I will look for the voices of forgiveness and belief-in-self. I will turn to the faith in me. And the willingness to work to get where the work and I need to be.
Easier said than done. But doable.