The Opposite of Popular

The online home of alleged author Victoria Leybourne

2016 Week Twenty-One: Playing Ketchup

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I told you last week that I’ve just finished a draft of Faustina. It’s not very good and I still have a lot of work to do on it. I knew it wouldn’t be very good, which is why I ditched this draft back in February, but I ended up going back to it because I thought it would feel awesome to finish a draft and that it would spur me on to make a quick, good job of the next one, secure in the knowledge that yes, I really can finish a draft!

So far, this has not been the case. In fact, you can summarise my feelings about completing something that took me over a year of the most sustained effort I’ve ever put into anything with the noise you get out of a nearly-empty ketchup bottle. TTHHHHHHHHHPPPBBTTTT.

A lot of people have said a lot of very sweet, comforting things to me about first drafts and the inherent crapness thereof. And that is very nice of them, but I don’t think of this as a first draft (although it is the first one I’ve finished so I suppose it’s fair to say that roughly the last third of it is a first draft). I’ve been working on this since April 2014. To me, what I’ve just finished feels like at least the third draft – and that’s discounting a lot of false starts that never got to more than a few thousand words and/or a lot of (clearly ineffective) planning.

And that makes me think “Damn, if this is the best I can do after all that time and effort… maybe this is the best I can do?” Which brings me to a weird ambivalence that I think (hope?) I’m not alone in having. On the one hand, I obviously think I’m quite good at writing or I wouldn’t be funnelling so much time and effort into it. On the other hand, I also think I’m the most appalling piece of trash ever to vomit purple prose onto a keyboard. That sounds over-dramatic (and it is!) but it’s basically the thought I just had while trying to write the opening paragraph of the new draft.

It’s a standards thing. If I painted something that was as good a painting as Faustina is a novel, I’d be pretty pleased with myself. I like painting, when I have an occasional go at it, but it’s not important to me – either that I do it at all or, crucially, that I’m good at it. I’m not trying to “be good at it”, in any meaningful sense. I’ll try to do a good painting and if I do then that’s nice and, if not, there’s always next time. Who cares? But, with writing, it’s completely different. There is no “good try” or “solid effort”. There’s only (unattainable) perfection or failure.

If this sounds miserable then… well, yeah, it kind of is at the moment. I don’t know why I feel this way: like writing is central to my identity and my worth as a person centres on how well it’s going, but I do and it sucks.

Believe it or not, there was going to be a point to this whining, but the point actually got so long that I’ve split it off into another post (coming soon!), so we’re left with this orphan whine that I don’t have time to replace with anything else. Sometimes this weekly blog challenge is a bit of a bind.

In other news:

I did a henna gloss on my hair and now the bath is yellow. But my hair is awesome.

A selfie of me with brighter, redder hair than usual.

I don’t think it actually fades out towards the ends the way it looks in this picture but I wouldn’t be surprised. My application technique could diplomatically be described as “freestyle”. (It involved a spoon and a carrier bag.)

My natural red has faded quite a lot and I wanted it back. I was actually hoping for how it looked when I was about ten but it’s ended up the way it was when I was about sixteen, which is close enough.

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7 thoughts on “2016 Week Twenty-One: Playing Ketchup

  1. There’s no such thing as a perfect novel, and we are our own worst critics. Just because it’s not the blow-your-mind-amazing novel you want it to be, doesn’t mean it’s not a pretty awesome read. So, here’s the thing… If you think it’s done, call it done. Because if you’re trying to aim for something that looks perfect to you, you’ll never do it.

    I’ve published over 40 books, many of which have reviews from people who actually don’t even know me, yet decided to buy the book, read it, and thought it was worthy of a four or five star review. Yet, if I was to go through those stories now, I can guarantee I’d find something I could make better; something that just isn’t as good as it could be. It’s how it works.

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    • Oh, I definitely don’t think it’s done. The idea of publishing it with all the problems I can see in it is horrifying! I do take your point about being our own worst critics, though, and you’re totally right that I’ll never achieve the perfection I’m looking for!

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  2. Other Victoria is again correct. No book is perfect. And honestly, most stories are never truly finished. Even though I’ve got quite a few published books out there, I still feel like there are things I’d go back and change if I let myself. And I don’t mean the occasional typo. At some point, we just need to be close enough to finished to let them go. And I’m not suggesting that you’re there yet, and you don’t need to be. But there’s also the opposite side of that which is not getting hung up on perfection.

    Side note: Your hair looks AMAZING, and I’m wildly jealous!!! It’s totally worth the yellow bath.

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    • I wonder if that’s one of the things I like about self-publishing: the idea that if I ever wake up one morning and go “crap, I’ve just realised that thing I published last year was total donkey balls!” I can take it down or at least edit it. I can see how this is not a good thing, though.

      And thank you 😀 Have you ever tried henna? It was easier than I thought it might be and my hair is lovely and soft and shiny, although I mixed the henna with coconut milk so it could be that. I recommend it, anyway!

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      • You know, there’s something to be said for having complete control. Believe me when I tell you that there are things I’d pull down and edit if I could.

        I haven’t. Do you know if it would work to cover gray? (Asking for a friend.)

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      • Well. If there’s one thing I learned about henna, it’s that no one on the Internet can agree on any aspect of its usage. But some people seem to think it covers greys. Might be worth looking into! So far it seems to have been a lot nicer to my hair than regular dye.

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  3. Pingback: 2016 Week Thirty-Eight: A Very Merry Blogiversary | The Opposite of Popular

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