The Contradiction of the Writer’s Brain

Posted on 20/12/2011 by

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I have another proposal to write. So I’m trying to convince my brain that I’m brilliant while it mutters to itself in the corner about inappropriate commas and word duplication.

See, I have these two completely contradictory desires — for everyone to read my work and to not let anyone see it. Which I think is common to a lot of writers. The ‘everyone read it’ side is easy to understand — you want to show off, you want to share this thing you’ve made, you want to be published.

Because at the same time you always want it to be your best work. And if you’re working at it you’re always improving your craft, so your best work is still to come. And what you wrote last year, or even last week on the high of enthusiasm and pre-editorial suddenly has every sign of being complete crap.

And you look into the past and realise your childish writings were poorly formed, predictable and un-engaging, you start to wonder if it’s simply the lack of the perspective of time on what you write now that makes you think it’s worthwhile. Perhaps this work too is… yeah, best not to go there. That way lies madness.

So it’s all, Wouldn’t you like to read my book? Right up until they say, Yes. At which point you’re stumbling backwards blurting, No, but are you sure? I mean maybe you’d like to wait until —

Exploding Dog comic - A stick figure (Sam) is looking at a book while the crazy monster holds out his hands in protest. The caption reads, 'No! You can't read my book of horrible ideas'

The bravest thing an author does is hand over their work. Like handing over a tiny piece of their soul. But that’s okay, because they can make another piece tomorrow. A better one. A shinier one. A — just wait, this is gonna be AWESOME…

The contradiction makes the idea of publication ambiguous, at least in my head. Giving more people the chance to love your work is also giving them the opportunity to hate it. And it’s not like majority opinion is particularly well known for being right or balanced or fair. (And they might be right to hate it…)

Really, the search for external validation is always inherently flawed. Publication does not bring happiness. (Or, usually, fame or fortune.) It is not the holy grail. But there are author copies, I suppose. So that’s something to look forward to.

Which, yes, okay, so I’m going to embrace the contradiction and try to ignore the pessimism of reason. Should be easy, right? After all, I don’t think anyone can claim that a defining characteristic of your average author is logic or a firm grasp of reality.