Recently, a friend asked on facebook if other people ever experienced a moment at which they hated their own story, the story they had poured months or even years into. Did anyone else ever reach a moment when they wondered why they had ever gotten themselves into this mess, what they had been thinking when they started, when they doubted not just scenes or sentences, but the entire project itself.
Yes. Oh, yes.
When you are a writer, or an artist of any kind, you have to learn to separate your feelings about the work from the work itself. Feelings are like waves. They rise and fall—one moment you are riding high, another you are at the nadir, with a curl cresting above you, ready to smash your boat to smithereens. These thoughts that we have about ourselves and our work—I’m a genius! This is brilliant! This is horrible! I’m doomed!—are simply thoughts. They come and go as the craft chugs steadily on. It’s important to recognize thoughts for what they are. They are not reality. You do not have to pay attention to them. You have to pay attention to the work.
Which begs the question, how do we keep going when our thoughts are so terrifying and upsetting? Well, my dears, why would you head out to sea when you know a storm is brewing? If you don’t have to, then perhaps you should wait for the storm to pass. Put the project away for a few days, and then read one page. See how you feel about it. If the evil thoughts and feelings have passed, then get to work.
Another option would simply be to go out into the storm, knowing that the weather will be choppy. Friends, if you are going to do this, then you must batten down the hatches. Close the craft off from the effects of the storm; don’t let the water in. Pay close attention to the craft itself and steer it with all of your concentration while ignoring the waves. Are you getting my metaphor? I’m telling you that the only way to get back to work is to say to yourself: These thoughts won’t kill my story. They may rage all around, but they can’t sink me unless I let them.
Even the worst storms end, and what will be left is you and the work. Don’t think. Just write.