This post is part of the Creative Process series, in which I will whine, cry, and philosophize about my life as a fiction writer. In the worst case scenario, fellow struggling artists will be heartened by my constant failures. In the best case scenario, a best-selling novel just might be written.
Recently, I compared novel-writing to pregnancy because most miscarriages occur in the first trimester. Once you get through the first third of the book, you’re much less likely to abandon it. Every day that passes, you are more and more enthralled with your “baby” as it begins to take shape. However, while pregnancy miscarriage has a rate of about 15%, I would bet that novel death has a much higher rate. I just passed the third-of-the-way mark and I’m absolutely thrilled. Yet sometimes I doubt that the road ahead has gotten any smoother and the thought of discarding my work entirely does cross my mind from time to time.
Mostly, I feel like a proud parent because I have the most unique opportunity to watch my novel flesh out before my eyes. In the beginning, it was difficult to get a grasp of the characters and the plot. Slowly, the plot has built itself and the characters have driven the progress. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the type of writer to plan everything out beforehand. In fact, sometimes I feel the way Elizabeth Gilbert described in her excellent TED talk on creativity.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA]
The worst affliction that could possibly manifest in a writer is the disease of narcissism. More than one too many a writer has loved his or her own writing a tad too effusively. Worse is when a writer is in love with himself because of his creative talents. The second worse writer’s affliction is self-doubt. The leading cause of novel death, this ailment is as common to artists as athlete’s foot is to runners. Since both narcissism and self-doubt contribute to the demise of good writing, the question becomes: what is the cure?
The answer lies in Gilbert’s fascinating look into historical views on creativity. When you give up the idea that you are the end-all, be-all of your art, you save yourself from the two primary causes of bad writing. When you accept that you are merely the vessel — the pawn — in the grand scheme of divine artistic connivery, you relieve yourself of the burden of being either God or Satan. Dear fellow writers of the world, accept that you are neither brilliant nor pitiful and then your work will speak for itself.
Do you suffer from either of these two ailments in your art? Will you participate in NaNoWriMo?