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Don’t Worry That It’s Not Good Enough For Anyone Else To Hear

I want to vomit on myself. In a sense, I already have. I’m referring of course to my screenplay, completed last night, reread this morning. What am I a fucking lonely goat herd? A refrigerator mom, a Skinner box? What am I doing? This is my fourth fucking one and they are getting worse. What am I, an organ grinder, an amino acid, a straw dog, a felt beret? What am I doing with these stumps? Wasn’t I  happier for the twelve years when I stopped writing entirely? YES. Wasn’t  I thinner? YES. Was able to do seventy five push ups? YES, YES, YES. Do I embrace life? No. Do I believe in love? Somewhat? What the fuck is writing anyway? What am I, a Mack truck? A pair of gold sandals? A forest full of trees? A baby carrot? Two buckets of blood?

What’s your first reaction to finished work?

69 Responses

  1. This is meaningless. I should stop. But, in deed, life goes on. Your work is probably better than you think. Jesus, fucking Christ, I’ve become an Irishman. Will some one, please, kill me.

  2. Disbelief. I’ve been flipping pages just to feel them slip off my thumb, enjoying the pure volume of words of paper. I haven’t ruined it yet by actually reading.

  3. Ok, so maybe I am normal. I have horrific reactions to it like, “This is total shit!” A little distance sometimes helps.

  4. My feelings are complex, but foremost and first is a feeling of satisfaction for a work well done.

  5. PS. Is it just me, or are many people ashamed to tell the truth about what life is to them? I want to use the word weird, and I’m almost sure Shakespeare would have something to say about that, and guts, and wit, and damn it all I’m gonna say it anyway, but weird, is not only offensive to some people but turns them into frightened, cowardly, trolls. I’m 61 pages into the memoir you suggested, The Kiss, and I gotta tell ya, life as we hope it to be, just isn’t sometimes. That’s as simple as it gets. Writing? Cleverness? Fuck you. Thanks again, Betsy.

  6. Glad to get that off my hands!

    Let’s work on the next project!

  7. Usually, the ‘”his is total shit and I should feed it to the fire before another human inadvertently sees it and is scarred for life” moments come during writing, when I go back and re-read what I’ve just written.

    I just finished my formerly-known-as WIP on Tuesday and I was relieved. And I felt it was OK. Not great, I’m a writer after all, so I will never think it’s great. But it’s alright. Since it’s finished being ‘born’ and is a (relatively) complete thing, I have to accept it as a reality and work with what I have.

    I’m a despondent fuck, but usually a pragmatic despondent fuck.

    • A pragmatically, despondent fuck. You’re killing me. you sound like my girlfriend after I’m done and she’s giving the evil eye like she already knows what’s gonna next. And she does. Unless I’m dumber than I think I am, I just can’t get her to do it. I hope that made sense. Writing is very much like that—Am I still as good as I thought I was? Which is a total bullshit question because you know you are. Ah, The Tempest, relived, over and over.

      • Enough. Enough with the girlfriend. Enough with your sex life. Enough with your b.s. confidence. Enough. It’s tired.

  8. Sounds to me like you need a beta. I’m available. No charge.

  9. I have a few seconds of ecstatic relief about being done before the self-flagellation for sucking so much begins.

  10. Relief. I’m not used to finishing things. After that, I remember why I studied something other than English or Creative Writing, but at least I can say it’s shit in two languages.

  11. Anxious. I think there are times that my fingernails won’t survive another piece of work.
    But, when it comes down to it, the finished work is gratifying and the fingernails grow back.

  12. Initially, elation, along with thoughts that it might be eminently publishable, possibly lyrical prose, punctuated by genuine sparks of genius.

    Then I put it aside to edit later and when I come back, someone has stolen my work and replaced it with meaningless drivel.

  13. My reaction to finishing a long work is sort of a combination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mission Impossible:

    I shout, “Free at last!” a couple of times and then start disavowing . . .

  14. Reincarnation. Then sex. Then drinking. Dancing. Perhaps a day of sanity.

  15. The sinking sense that it’s not good enough — not as good as I sometimes thought it was. I’ll do this thing where I scroll to random pages and read snatches. I do so hoping to surprise myself with a good scene, a few nicely turned sentences. Instead my writing humiliates me.

  16. Unfinished? It’s always unfinished, isn’t it? Even when it’s published.

  17. Oh finished, that’s what you said. Yeah, even that’s unfinished, too.

  18. I love it! I feel fantastic! I re-read it the next day and discover all over again that it’s really good writing and I know it will be successful! And I don’t dare tell you my name because everyone would attack me for my willingness to be for the most part pleased with my work instead of scuffling my toe in the dirt with the prevailing fake self-put-downs that are as much of an affectation as a feather boa or a pit bull in an author photo (you’re the exception Betsy; your self-put-downs are genuine). And my books are in fact very good and very successful.

  19. Contentment that the plot/characters/ dialogue are f-i-n-a-l-l-y out of my brain and dread for the anticipated stroll through critiques, queries, blank stares, thin envelopes and/or monosyllable emails.

    And yet, quickly enough, a new idea tugs at me and I repeat the process. Now, I have a small tribe of ‘completed works’ that, for the moment, are only loved by me. Not sure if this is the literary version of The Land of Misfit Toys or worse.

  20. First, I like it. Then return to review and dislike it. I think: it’s not as good as (insert any comparison/despairison), this makes no sense, it sucks. Then I edit. Or I walk away. Sometimes for years. And then find it when I go through a periodic annual review of all that lives on my desktop or notebook and say, “Wow, this is pretty good. Why didn’t I do anything with this?” And so, my ongoing lament for putting so little of my work out.

    The other day when reviewing/reediting some chapters, I thought, “this just isn’t as good as the book I was reading last night.” Then, a sort of zen-like thought followed: it is not for you to judge what is good and not good…Just make it as good as you can, take the action to put it out, let go of results.

  21. Self appreciating I am not. It’s always time to start over.

  22. a sense of completion and accomplishment and pride and hubris and a reaffirmation that i am not a half bad writer and really better than that and come on, people, lets publish this baby. oh, yeah, my writing ego is more than healthy. so far thats as good as it gets, though.

  23. Almost always I ask myself, “Why does this appear to be written in a language other than English?”

  24. I might douse myself in good bottle of vino and wake up tomorrow thinking, What Manuscript?

    Hey, it might work.

    Or I might be full of shit.

    Or both.

  25. I once had this therapist. I would lament ad nauseum that given the choice of highs and lows versus samey middles, I’ll take the polarities. He liked to goad me into embracing all that chop water carry wood shit. I would nod, but I never sipped that particular KoolAid. And so it is with the writing.

    Oh, to have at least once loved it, really loved it…

  26. Fear. Blind, raging, all-consuming fear. I’m afraid to go back and find out that what I wrote is a pile of shit.

  27. Dear Betsy, somewhere along the way somebody must have told you to hate yourself. I’ve only joined the blog recently but I felt The Forest for the Trees was written with such kindness and poise and insight. Add to that your cracking humour and I can’t imagine that your new work equals vomit down your shirt or goats ninnying. Just let the work breathe a little. You are good.
    I have to reread something today which I felt warm with when I finished last week. But now I have severed off my feelings and think that it is a piece of work that must be made sound. Best wishes.

  28. By the way, Betsy, I don’t know how this happened, but you are my Jumbo Jack. I’m gonna try to quit you baby, I’m gonna try to quit you real hard, but it ain’t easy. Fuck people. Buy ’em sell ’em. they’re a joke. Their emotions are better associated with sheep, or soap-operas. Jumbo-Jack, baby. I’m going, right now. To people! To Money! To the guy who invented the Jumbo Jack! (It’s not complicated, it’s all in the mayonnaise, and the beef.) Sick mother fuckers think their emotional porno is worstestes than the dick and pussy. Go figure. I’m outta here. you guys are bugggin’ fakein’ and I need a Jumbo Jack. In twenty years, let’s see who wrote a book. In the mean time, I might buy two.

  29. Horror and self-disgust.

    And if I manage to force myself to keep reading, a seedy, soiled sense of satisfaction, self-abuse.

  30. Blah, la la la la, Blah, la, la, la,

  31. It’s beautiful in the moment before I hit ‘send’ and then it turns to expanding putrescence before my eyes, like a Peep tossed into a microwave on high.

  32. anything over 750 word count and i find enough wrong with it that i have to rewrite the whole thing.

    this, of course, has nothing to do with my writing and everything to do with me. somewhere along the way somebody told me to dislike myself just enough to re-do me over and over and over and over again.

  33. Betsy, you are afflicted. That’s what you are. You can write; you can dance; you can paint; you can act; you can play music. What you can’t do is stop, because you are afflicted.

  34. “What’s your first reaction to finished work?”

    It depends. It could be, “Nicely turned.” It could be, “Thank God I was able to get through that without completely fucking it up.”

    My one screenplay was a nicely turned project that kept me busy for six months and gave me warm fuzzies; however, as a screenplay, it turned out to be fatally flawed (i.e., “fucked up”). It could stand refashioning as a novel, methinks, which may be a passing glance at the fundamental differences between novels and screenplays, or may be a searing illumination of why many more people watch movies than read novels, or may be just another of my daily delusions.

    Speaking of which, this is the part of the show where we dance:

  35. the only way to see the whole is to step back

    I have found (and I’m talking about chapters, not books, because I’ve never finished a book) that I can’t put a clear eye on my own work until I’ve been away from it for at least a week…

  36. My reaction to finished work is, “start cutting.”

  37. Maybe you’re a donkey, or a ghost, or a sandwich. No! You’re a sexy librarian!

  38. I dunno. I don’t think I’d call my work finished until I felt reasonably satisfied with it. Anything else is a draft.

    • I don’t call my work finished until it’s published.

      Oh oh, here comes the boss, looks like this is finished.

      • Every time my boss pokes her head in my door, I throw a spreadsheet at her and hope she goes away. Usually it works, but today I may have to stun her with a fat medical chart and a hundred flying paper clips.

  39. I am crazy for mine and reread it all over and over. Actually, someone said, “That would make a good screenplay.” And I said, “I don’t know how to do that.” And one of them has a wonderful analogy about a Mack truck. It involves sex. And is excerpted from an actual experience in my little life.

  40. The next day I think, oy, what was I thinking? A week later I think, okay, now wait, I can fix this. Optimistic or delusional? Not sure yet.

  41. 1) I am a fucking rockstar.

    2) Oh my fucking God…now what?

  42. I get that feeling halfway through a manuscript; wtf was I thinking, it’s crap…and then I power through, edit, and wind up liking the whole damned thing.

  43. Well, you really made me laugh, but oh, how I can relate. Except I can’t, because compared to me, you have a very successful career.

    Howevs, to answer: sometimes I finish and have a great feeling of wonderfulness that is awfully close to needing to barf, and sometimes I reread my work and it has turned to dust. Dust.

  44. My reaction to finished work: shock.

    Finish? Are you kidding?

    Procrastination is so sweet, so full of unexplored pleasures and uncharted adventures.

    I have something due today and haven’t done more than watch tennis and putter with old files that contain possibly useful material and write a letter. And now this.

    Finish, yeah, I don’t think so.

  45. Nausea. Self-doubt. Self-hatred. You know, the usual.

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