Great Versus Dead Fish

February 25, 2008

I can’t believe how impossible it is to know ahead of time how something I write will be received.  Sometimes I agonize for days over something — writing, rewriting, rewriting, getting third-party opinions, more rewrites, etc. etc. etc.  I finally release it (to whomever), and get almost no feedback.  It just sort of flops over like a dead fish.

At other times, I whip out something, barely giving it a second thought, and then think “I really don’t have time for this editing shit, it’s fine, just let it go.”  The millisecond after I release it I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I didn’t put the love and attention into this piece that I should have.  I know that I was much too casual about dumping my stream-of-consciousness onto paper and rushing it out before its time.  I spend the next day on a terrible guilt trip, fretting over the fact that people will read it and instantly be on to me.  Next thing I know, to my amazement, people are gushing out over what I wrote. 

There seems to be a fine line between great and dead fish.  There’s no rhyme nor reason as to how people will react.

This past weekend I agonized for two days over my grammar homework assignment, and then it flopped.  Time was running out on Sunday and I still had homework for my new class in composition to do.  Out of desperation I quickly went over to my blog and grabbed a post — some sort of random babbling about whatever it is I babble about here.  The teacher loved it.  Go figure 😛

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6 Responses to “Great Versus Dead Fish”

  1. lirone said

    I know exactly what you mean – I’ve recently been writing some very similar things about my singing <a href=”http://wordsthatsing.wordpress.com/2008/02/23/taking-a-risk-in-singing/”here.

    There’s a magic in not being self-conscious about artistic output… but polishing has to come in at some point. Or does it?

  2. write4bucks said

    I understand what you’re saying. Perhaps I am the last person who should leave a comment on “Great Versus Dead Fish”. Blogging is brand new to me (I even ordered “Blogging for Dummies”) I feel very naked posting even one sentence, as if the universe is judging my every word.

    I read an article somewhere years ago on obsessive rewriting ( which often crushes the heart out of a piece). The gist of the article was, “Don’t be a mean boss (to yourself).” Cut yourself some slack. You’ll relax and your writing voice will emerge. In my experience, that is when my scribblings are well-received.
    Wow, I think I just wrote my way out of my writing funk.

  3. Jane said

    I sent you email :). I agree that you can crush the life out of something by obsessive rewriting. I once told my teacher that sometimes it feels like I’ve rewritten to the point where I end up with mashed potatoes. When that happens, I have to back up to just before the point where things started getting mashed, and quit right there.

    I tend to keep lots and lots of revisions for that reason. I have to rewind A LOT. bleh.

  4. I also know what you mean. I’ve just spewed out stuff that got a bit of attention, and put lots of effort into stuff that’s fallen flat. I think we need to remember, though, that we might be learning just as much about writing–maybe more–with the stuff that falls flat as the stuff that takes wings.

    Hm. I keep referring to my writing as “stuff.” Maybe I need to work on my self-esteem.

  5. Jane said

    Having some sort of venue for regular writing and publishing is a good thing for that reason. So you can experiment with what works and what doesn’t work and figure out how to churn out the stuff that works. Blogs are good. Online roleplaying games that are highly freeform-roleplaying-and-storywriting-centric are perfect (of which there are sadly very few) because they seed amazing inspiration for stories, and it’s really easy to crank out a short story weekly. If they weren’t so freakin’ time consuming I’d seek one out and play. But that means kissing everything else I want to accomplish in my life goodbye, which would not be good 😛

  6. Ned said

    I was thinking about this today… sometimes I feel like I’m re-inventing the wheel. I have to have a special way of writing something that is so creative and original. I’ll agonize over it for hours and then discover that it’s in the MLA style book or something.

    Maybe creative writing doesn’t need to be so damn creative.

    And I like the blog theme.

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