Monday, August 15, 2011

Gordon Ramsay Gave Me My Groove (Back)

I had a short-term crisis of faith this week, the sort that usually ends in writer's block:

What if I'm not a novelist?

Sure, I can pen a pretty mean short story. But that doesn't mean I can write a decent novel. Novels and short stories are as different as haiku and free verse. Just because someone is pretty good at one, it doesn't mean they are good at the other. Maybe I just wasn't cut out for producing a novel.

This crisis came about from diving into another revision on my first novel, Macha Mong Ruadh. Every time I pick it up I find more plot holes, more characters acting "out of character," more weak scenes . . . the task of revising it into a readable novel seems overwhelming. And every time, I find myself saying, "How the hell am I ever going to fix this?"

I can even try to say, "Maybe it's not me. Maybe it's the novel." After all, the "experts" say you should throw away your first novel. Maybe I am a novelist and this particular novel just blows. Maybe if I pick up my NaNo novel and start on it, things will go better.

Crisis of faith: do I suck as a novelist, or does the novel suck?

Or am I'm just suffering from the same doubt that plagues most writers? And most artists.

Hubby and I were watching a cooking reality show the other day--well, okay, he was watching the show and I was reading, but I happened to look up at a crucial point--and the judge asked the contestants to raise their hands if they felt confident about their dish. One cook raised his hand. Only one. The judge tasted confident-cook's dish and raked him over the coals about all the things wrong with it. Meanwhile, one of the cooks who came forward forlornly, disappointed that his dish didn't live up to his intentions, ended up getting a rave review.

The lesson: very rarely does an artist--writer, painter, cook--feel like their art has met their own expectations.

We are our own worst enemies.

So, thanks to the reminder from the reality cooking show, I decided I was going to keep working on this novel. After all, I certainly won't know if I'm a novelist, if this novel sucks, or if I'm just being a doubting Thomas, unless I power through it. I've dived back into revisions and, after a few days of work, I'm realizing that things aren't as bad as I thought they were.

Thank you, Gordon Ramsay.

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