IWSG: The Critic in the Mirror

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement. Click here to find out more about IWSG and to see a list of participating blogs.

First off, I want to assure you that I’m okay. Parts of this post might sound really bad, but I promise I’m okay.

At least, I am now.

Two or three weeks ago… not so much.

Back in 2012/2013, I wrote a short story series about a journalist who travels through time. Sort of like Rita Skeeter from Harry Potter becomes a Time Lord from Doctor Who. It was a pretty cool series, if I do say so myself.

But over the last few years, I’ve been struggling to figure out what to do with these all stories. I hate to admit this, but I’ve even considered letting this whole project go and starting something else instead. Something easier. Something more manageable.

Then last month, I had an idea. A brilliant idea! A crazy idea. One of my best ideas ever! I suddenly knew exactly what I needed to do with the Tomorrow News Network series; the only problem was that this idea was going to require a whole lot of work. Way more work than I’m accustomed to. I’d basically have to start the whole series over from scratch.

Do I… do I really want to do that?

Am I capable of pulling this off?

I don’t know, but when I looked in the mirror, the guy staring back at me made his thoughts on the subject plain.

I guess most writers have these kinds of thoughts from time to time. It’s just… I’ve never had this kind of self-doubt hit me so hard before, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. It made August one of the darkest and saddest months of my life.

Now regular readers of my blog know that my muse makes frequent appearances in these IWSG posts. Regular readers may also know that my muse doesn’t really understand how the “real world” works (fairy people from imagination-land typically don’t). Apparently among other things like deadlines and personal finances, she also gets confused about mirrors.

Maybe that’s not the most inspiring thing a muse can say to her writer, but I appreciate the sentiment.

We writers really are jerks to ourselves. We’re our own worst critics because we do the one thing that you’re never supposed to do when criticizing—or rather critiquing—other people’s work. We make it personal.

That guy in the mirror called me a failure. He said some other pretty nasty things about me too. But he didn’t say one word about my writing or this new idea I’m toying with. Seriously, if someone did that in a critique group, that person would be politely but sternly asked to leave.

So as I said, I’m okay. At least, I am now. I’ve recovered from my bout of self-doubt and depression, and I’ve gotten back to writing. My plan for September is to try this new idea out and see how it goes.

As for the guy in the mirror… until he learns how to give constructive feedback, I will not be listening to him.

21 Responses to IWSG: The Critic in the Mirror

  1. chemistken says:

    I’m glad you won the argument. Hey, the theme for the latest IWSG anthology has to do with time. Maybe one of your short stories would fit there. Just a thought.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Scott Levine says:

    Good luck with it. I can’t wait to see what comes of these projects, new stories or old stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Juneta says:

    Great post. Loved the cartoon comics to go with it. Best wishing and happy writing on the project. You go.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I just read a post yesterday when the writer said to save your writing even if you don’t use it with a current project. She said it might make another story. I would say first, save what you have already written even if you write something else. Would it help to get feedback from other writers that you trust about your story? Keep going.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      I’m a big believer in holding on to old writing. I’ve recycled elements from a lot of abandoned stories, going all the way back to when I was a little kid.

      As for this experiment I’m working on now, it’s a little too early to start asking for feedback. We’ll see how September goes, and if I still think this is a good idea, I might start showing it to people in October. Fingers crossed for now.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What’s the rationale for the rewrite? TNN seemed like it had a good premise to begin with.

    Liked by 2 people

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      Thanks! I really appreciate you saying that!

      I don’t want to say too much about what I’m doing, at least not yet. The original premise is still the same, but I found that the individual stories sort of broke continuity with each other. That’s what started the rewriting process.

      I’ve also been trying to incorporate more of my scientific research, and more of my real world experiences working in the news business.

      Basically, there were a lot of little things I wanted to change or fix, and it’s added up to a much, much bigger challenge than I originally anticipated.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Quite often the early versions of a character or series will evolve before it becomes the best version of itself. Sometimes I look back on my old writing and cringe at the mistakes I made that I wouldn’t make now, but I try to think of that as a sign of how far I’ve come. It sounds like you’ve put in the work to make the next version a better version, so try to have faith in yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Self doubt is absolutely the worst. I’m suffering an intense bout of it myself right now, but not for writing reasons (although it’s recently shut down my writing). It helps me to realize that everyone suffers from it, that’s it’s not just me, or you, that even the most confident seeming people typically have to deal with it. Some people are simply better at hiding it.

    I read somewhere that, given that most first drafts are crimes against humanity, the difference between an amateur and professional writer is in the revision process. It sounds like you’re perfecting that process right now. In other words, making progress!

    Anyway, please don’t stop. I’d like to read these stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      A close friend was going through similar personal turmoil in August. She’s trying to do something very different than I am, but still the feelings were the same. It helped to be able to commiserate with someone, though in the end we both had to find our own unique ways out of it.

      As for my writing, I’m not making any promises about my current project. But I am feeling more confident than I was, and I’m going to give it the best chance of success I can.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Someone famous said ‘writing is rewriting’, and ruined countless lives. I’m excited to see what you come up with!

    You’re not alone in the massive lows. Someone once slapped my hand and told me to “change the narrative.” It was weird, because I barely knew this person, but they were onto something. It’s something I force myself to do when I start getting low, and it helps. I don’t want to be a story of discouragement, I want to inspire myself, even if it doesn’t come naturally.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      Writing this post actually turned out to be really therapeutic. It helped me “change the narrative” from the story mirror me wanted to tell to the story I wanted to tell. Or my muse wanted to tell. Whichever.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Steve Morris says:

    Really sorry to hear about your self doubt, James. Having read some of your TNN stories, I’m eager to read more and see your work published. You are not a failure like that guy in the mirror claimed. You are in fact a great writer. Your stories are interesting, your characters nicely constructed, your plots good and your craft well-honed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      Thanks, Steve. I appreciate the encouragement. I’m still a bit apprehensive about this latest round of revisions, but I’m making progress. Early next month, maybe I’ll have something to show you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Steve Morris says:

        And at some point we have to simply commit to a project and resolve to see it through, putting residual doubts to one side. An imperfect book is better than no book at all! I have never embarked on a major project feeling confident that I have got everything perfect – there’s always doubt and risk. Tell the critic in the mirror that it is better to try and fail than never try at all, and that his advice is the worst possible kind of advice.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Donna L Hole says:

    I agree; we all get this down on ourselves from time to time. Sometimes even worse. We listen to negative self-talk we would never tolerate being said to another. I’ve been through several bouts of depressing self doubt. Luckily the worst I’ve done was delete a blog. And then had to start over from scratch. But, that turned out ok in the end too.

    Sometimes starting over, almost fresh, can be the right answer. Not because you’ve failed, but because its just time for fresh attitude with a loved project. Apply all those well learned insights in a new manner.

    Writing, like life, is an everyday challenge.

    I hope the series is getting a fresh look from you now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      I definitely needed a little change in perspective, so that I could give my work a fresh look. It was scary at first, but I’m starting to make progress. And I think I’m past the whole “I’m a failure” thing, at least for the time being.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

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