I know I said I was going to take the week off, but I’m having a really hard time right now and writing has always helped me process. I’ve written and erased this post about six times since Saturday night, wondering if I should say it/post it/erase it. I still don’t know if I’m making the right decision. All I know is that I’m dehydrated because of all of the crying, and I can’t sleep without sleeping pills because my brain won’t let me move on. So here it is:
As a writer, when is it time to say, “No more. I’m done”?
I entered a writing contest last year and didn’t do very well. Looking on the bright side, I highlighted the areas where I received the lowest scores and spent the year studying how to improve them. I took two months off last summer when I stopped writing. I spent roughly $1200 attending conferences, and bought at least six craft books and countless novels so I could continue to study and learn.
I re-entered the same manuscript in the same contest this year – I did worse.
Last year the judges told me my characters were one-dimensional. This year they told me the characters were too contradictory, that they could be kind or kidders, but not both. Last year my dialogue was natural, believable – I didn’t alter it much (though I did apply some techniques that I learned). This year my hero was ripped to shreds if he said more than two six-word sentences in a row.
The list goes on, but the point is this – I am apparently a worse writer today than I was a year ago.
Please know that this is NOT a rant against the judges. They are all doing their best jobs – I know that. I have no desire to criticize them. This is about my writing and whether or not I should be doing it.
I’m beginning to think that I don’t have the strength for this. I certainly don’t have the understanding for it. That’s why I like math – 2+2=4, it always has and it always will. But with writing … well, I don’t know of any sport in which an athlete practices for a year and then ends up a worse player than when she started. That is, however, possible in writing.
I just don’t know if I can keep doing this. When I found out the ACFW conference is in Indianapolis this year, I was thrilled, but now I don’t know if I want to spend that kind of money if I’m not improving. How do I justify to my husband that in two years I spent thousands of dollars to end up worse than I started?
And even if I do continue, what I do about this manuscript? In two years I’ve revised the first few chapters numerous times for contests. If after two years they’re worse than when I started, then what chance does the rest of the manuscript have?
I don’t even know what to do. Usually I read when I’m upset, but craft books just point out how much I don’t understand, and novels are depressing because they are full of the same type of writing for which I’ve been criticized. I want to write, but I can’t. Every time I think about opening my manuscript I realize how awful it is, and I don’t have the heart to finish writing something that’s obviously not good. And when I try to write essays or devotionals, well … this post is an example of what keeps happening.
So I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what I should do. I don’t know if I can handle this anymore. I just don’t know.