Feelings vs. Reality
Mental Health Writing

Feelings vs. Reality

The editing of the Mystery Book (#8, from yesterday, lord I will be glad when I can spill the beans) continues apace. I reread the entire thing over the weekend, for the first time in quite a while.  I reread it with increasing despair, because oh my god, I have written a terrible book! It’s awful! How has my editor let me get this far with a terrible book!

Reader, I panicked a little bit.

This is one of those times when it pays to have an editor that you trust. I have a list of items that she’s asked me to improve on in this draft. I know how to do those things. so I’ve pretty much just had to resolve to do those things, and let go of the rest of it. She is excited about this book. Everyone who’s read it so far has been excited about this book. And let’s face it, there are times when I am not the best judge, or even a very good judge, of my own work. I have imposter syndrome even at the best of times, but working on this book has amped up my imposter syndrome to whole new levels.

When I talk about writing, I talk a lot about ‘doing it anyway’. Working on this book has been a masterclass in ‘doing it anyway’. As I’m going through and making the requested changes and additions, I keep seeing things that make me cringe and go “is that stupid? It sounds stupid” and “OH MY GOD THIS PLOT MAKES NO SENSE”. And then I just have to take a deep breath and keep going. I keep reminding myself that my editor is highly motivated to make this book the best it can possibly be, and that she has way more experience than I do. Beyond that, she has an objectivity that I do not have.

It’s been a solid reminder to myself that just because I really hate something I’m writing, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep going. There is immense value in finishing something, even if that something does turn out to be absolutely awful. But more than that, it’s making me learn to trust myself. I have strong instincts, and I’ve picked up some skills. Even when I may not feel like I’m doing things right, my instinct and skill are often carrying me through, regardless of what my emotions are doing.

Emotions are such a huge part of the writing process. Nothing beats the high I get when the writing is going well, or when I’ve written something I’m especially proud of. It’s exciting. And the frustration when it’s not going well is sometimes enough to drown me. Part of learning to write professionally has involved learning how to deal with my emotions about writing. I’ve learned that it’s entirely possible to write crap that feels great to write, and it’s equally possible to be brilliant when I’m slogging through every word and hating it. When I’m in the middle of the process, I don’t always know which it is. So I have to sort of let the emotions do whatever they’re going to do, and keep writing.  My feelings about what I’m writing do not always reflect the objective quality of what I’m writing.

In other words, feelings don’t always equal reality. (This is, oddly, remarkably similar to how I have to manage my emotions when dealing with my mental health sometimes.)

Being able to accept that (both with writing and real life) and keep going no matter what the feelings are doing, has resulted in a whole truckload of personal and professional growth.

Still, hopefully by the time I turn this draft in to my editor, I’ll be back to loving the work. Loving it is definitely easier than hating it.