Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Own Worst Judge

It's time to tell the truth again.

Here's goes: I'm my own worst judge. And coupled with that is the fact that I expect myself to be perfect.

Which, of course, is impossible.

I'm going through my manuscript again. Revising. Editing. Strengthening. Streamlining. Quickening. Bettering.

This is great and all. I can't say I'm particularly enjoying it because I've gone all George and am doing things I've never done before. But the need to "get it right" is strong.

Overpowering almost.

And even though I don't really need to line edit, I am. Every sentence I read, I think "Holy brown cows, girl! You sent this to an agent??" And then a vein of panic slices into my subconscious.

It's that whole worst judge thing. I keep repeating a few choice lines someone said to me and then I'm able to move past the paralyzing panic and keep revising.

How do you guys get over the whole perfection thing? Are you your own worst judge? Why do we do that to ourselves?

29 comments:

Abby said...

I'm the same way. I think this is why I like math so much, because there truly is a perfect answer for any problem. Words, not so much. That subjective thing always gets in the way, and how the heck am I supposed to measure that?

If you figure out how to get over it, let me know. It would make my life a lot easier. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Ugh, I recently decided the novel I'm querying (or WAS querying) needs another editorial pass, and I KNOW these same thoughts will dominate the process.

Good luck to you. :)

beth said...

I've done it through critique partners. I have three stages of critiques, and by the time I've revised and revised and revised and the last group reads, they say it's ready (or, more likely, they say it's ready after I fix a few tiny details). From that point--I trust them.

You can't beat a dead horse, after all. I am at the point where if it's not done, it's as done as it ever will be. I might, if I get nothing but rejections, go back to the manuscript--but not now.

Lisa said...

Don't I know it.

Scott said...

I'm right there with you on this one, Elana. I am my own worst judge.

I expect perfection. I'm so totally not perfect. : )

I think there just comes a time and place where I have to stop the revising and send the project out to sink or swim on its own. I can always, always find something wrong with my writing. I truly think that ability is a gift. If we see our writing as perfect, oh, there's nothing I could ever change, then, in the end, we are failing ourselves, and lying to ourselves as well. All we (I) can do, is the best that I possibly can, with the simple understanding that an agent/editor/publisher is going to want some changes as well.

So, step back, take a deep breath, do a final read through and toss that baby out of the nest!

S

Suzanne said...

I JUST LEARNED A NEW TRICK!!!!!!

At least it works for me....

A RULER! I go through with my pen, line by line, with a ruler so I can't see the next line. Tedious, but oh... the things I've caught. From errors to word choice.

Good luck friend!

BTW: my word verification is "Churn" no joke.

Teri said...

What is really hard for me is actually getting the words down on paper...because I expect them to be perfect right then and there. A complete and utter pipe dream, I know. I just need to do it, and then come what may! Good luck with the edits!

Lady Glamis said...

I'm my own worst judge every moment of every day. It's so frustrating. I'm working on a post about perfection soon.

Elana, keep going. You're doing wonderfully, and I think you've got a lot of potential with that book we talked about yesterday. *hugs*

Marybeth Poppins said...

See I would have thought I was my own worse judge...but I'm going to give that title to my lovely husband. He enjoys playing the devils advocate. Not so sure I enjoy it. Either that or my book really sucks??? Hmmmmmm......

L. T. Host said...

I have argued and argued with myself. I have hated myself for knowing something needs to change or come out. But in the end, I know it needs to change or come out. Can't afford to indulge myself if I'm serious about getting published, so I accept the harshest criticism I give myself and do what I need to do.

Honestly, my biggest fear is being too harsh and losing the spirit of the thing.

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

I think it's inherent that we're going to be our own worst critic. But how much of it is genetic and how much of it is the culture we are raised in? There's so much focus on being the best these days that I think we might sometimes lose sight of the joy that is the journey.

Jessica said...

I don't know why we do it but I'm sure there's a deep, pyschological, possibly spiritual reason for it. LOL
I'm the same way. I force myself to only edit the same work three or four times and then I have to be done (that includes crit groups, beta readers). I can't allow myself to do more because I'll never be done. I'll just keep changing sentences, words, plot points....ack.
So you sent something to an agent? Woohoo!

ali said...

Hmm. Maybe I'm a lot more narcisistic than I thought I was. Because I only occasionally hate my work, lol. Or maybe because I'm extremely talented at ignoring painful truths that are right in front of me.

So when I read my crappy MS that I was so proud of myself for sending out to agents/editors, my eyes glaze over, my toes go numb and and I blisffuly forget what I'm doing.

Later, I can go back and edit and revise my little heart out. Forgetting, all the while, that anyone but me has ever seen my work.

Windy said...

Hmmm, I like to use Belgian chocolate truffles, myself. They work great when you feel like you're bleeding red ink.

I believe everyone is their own worst critic and if they're not, they're suffering some sort of undiagnosed mental illness.

You don't "get over" trying to be perfect, I think. You just have to learn to accept (and hopefully appreciate) that you're imperfect. I know, easier said than done.

Michelle McLean said...

I'm definitely my own worst judge. When it comes to submissions, (and it took me forever to start doing this), I get the ms as good as I can, it goes through crit buddies and revisions - and when it starts coming back from crit buddies with only minor markage for things like word choice and small spelling errors, then I go through it once more and consider it done. Once I start submitting, that's it. I don't look at it anymore.

Because there is always something I'm going to find that I think needs changing. And the tiny stuff isn't going to get me rejected. If the story is good and the agent/editor likes my style of writing, they will work with me on anything else. A missed period here or there or weird word choice isn't going to send my ms down the garbage shoot.

And frankly, submitting is terrifying enough without the added stress. I just have to trust that any major problems were fixed long ago and just hit SEND.

So when that submission request comes in, I write my little cover letter, attach my file WITHOUT OPENING IT, and send it. Cause otherwise, I'd second-guess myself to death and probably end up over-editing to the point where my once awesome story is nothing but a long string of perfect grammar and punctuation :D I'd rather have a great story and a few mistakes.

I'll never get over the perfection thing...I just try to work around it :D I've also been practicing telling myself to SHUT IT whenever I start ripping myself apart too badly. And awesome friends and crit partners are a great help there as well. ;-D

Kat Harris said...

I'm certainly my own worst judge, but the thing about revising and revising and revising again is that you will eventually get to a point where your story is overworked.


Then you're accused of overwriting.

Hmmpf..

I really envy those writers whose words are clean and crystal clear. Since I'm my own worst critic, I don't know if my words are like that. (I know my comments aren't.) :-)

Nisa said...

Why do we do that to ourselves? I think we do want to be perfect and it's not a bad thing because that desire helps us become better. Why we have to bloody our self-esteem in the process, I'm still trying to figure that out...

Lisa and Laura said...

We just completely rewrote our first chapter and our beta reader LOVED it. Of course I went back over it again that night and fixed about a million little things. I think it's impossible not to want to line edit and make changes when you're reading your own work. We're all our own worst critics.

Jaime Theler said...

It's good to want to make your work better, but sometimes it's hard to know when to stop yourself.

Someone once suggested I do a line edit pass starting with the last page, then read the second to the last page, then the third to the last, etc. You will catch things that way because you're not worrying about flow, or character development, and you can focus at a sentence level.

Rebecca Knight said...

Okay, are you spying on me as I've been editing this week?? Or are you just psychic? ;)

Oh my gosh, I feel you 100% on this one. Psycho doesn't even begin to describe it. Thankfully, I think this means we're ahead of those folks who think it is perfect the first time through. It will pay off eventually, but in the meantime, we need someone to pry our fingers off our manuscripts and lure us away with chocolate.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I'm definitely my own worst critic - especially when dealing with rejections, it can lead to a downward spiral of negativity.

However, when editing I just try to retain a sense of humor - especially since I know a lot of my writing pitfalls, when I spot one - like another long a$$ run-on sentence (like this one perhaps?) - I just groan and roll my eyes instead of beating myself up over it.

I also make sure to give myself a little pat on the back when I come to a sentence or paragraph that just really works. Don't forget to give yourself those pats - they're important!

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm my own worst critic too.

What I'd really like to know is, what are the choice lines you repeat to yourself?

FictionGroupie said...

When you figure out how to get past the perfection thing, let me know. I struggle with that too. Every time I read through a page, I want to change something.

MG Higgins said...

This really does drive me nuts. What looks wonderful one day, I read the next day and it's c*#p. I wish I knew how to solve. Feedback helps. And setting a ms aside for a period of time and getting a more distanced view makes a difference, too.

Katie Ganshert said...

I am definitely my own worse judge. I tend to get very critical of my stuff when I revise. I'm slowly improving at this, though. You're not alone, Elana!

Tabitha Bird said...

Yes, sometime sI can be my own worst judge. I need to remember to enjoy writing even while editing. Otherwise that little light goes out inside and I can't write anything. All the best as you edit :)

christine said...

First off, "vein of panic" is my new favorite phrase...

Second, I think YOU know me better than anyone...I never struggle with this, right *wink, wink*...If you figure out a cure, let me know, 'k!

Bethany Wiggins said...

I don't think I'll ever get over the perfection thing. Every single time I read my MS, there is something wrong--lots of something-- and I wonder how I had the gall to think that it was done!

storyqueen said...

I think that the people who are hard on themselves do tend to write some really good stuff.

Perfectionism can be a gift.

Shelley

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