Lesson From Other Writers

One of the things that has helped me to carry on with my personal journey of writing a novel is to read about the struggles of other authors, especially established authors. I have yet to hear a writer who claims it has been an easy ride all throughout. While self-doubt may not be an issue to some, yet, moments of discouragements and the occassional spectre of a writer’s block are realities that a writer has to deal with all through the creative process. I read that Harper Lee, the creator of the classic “To Kill A Mockingbird”, had, at one time, wanted to destroy her manuscript at a moment of frustration with the story and her own slow progress.

So when recently I realized that I needed to revise some parts of my novel for the second time, which means I’m now writing its third draft, that would have been enough reason for me to think of throwing away the whole dream into the trash. But then I remembered the author Khaled Hosseini (author of “The Kite Runner”) who said that in the course of writing his second novel he had changed it (partly, I presumed) five times! Then, in an interview with J.K. Rowling (of the Harry Potter fame), the famous author admitted it took her 5 years (!) to complete the first Potter book. Hmm, how many times then did she change or revise her manuscript within that relatively lengthy period of time when that book was no more than 300 pages long?

It’s liberating for me once I realized these facts. It’s been two and a half years ever since I started writing my book and still there’s no end in sight. While I shouldn’t be unnecessarily sluggish with my writing, I told myself that I should simply focus on achieving my goal. So, I discovered that there are at least three P’s a first-time author must not lose along the way: Passion, Patience, Perseverance!

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The Spectre of Perfectionism

I think part of the struggle of anyone wanting to create something – whether painter, musician, or writer – is the striving for perfection. There’s always the nagging ever-present pressure to come up with a creation perfectly polished, without any blemish and without anything in it that could incur negative criticism from its audience. Perfectionism might very well be self-imposed. And although some struggling artist or writer might crack under the strain, but, on the other hand, it might likely have been the impetus for the masterpieces we’ve seen in art ever since the Age of Renaissance…

But what is the underlying engine that drives artistic perfectionism? I think every artist should ask himself this question. If I look into my own creative process, I might as well be honest (first of all to myself) and confess that part of it is the desire for approval. This, I’m well aware, can be a deadly poison that could spell death to the creative process and, consequently, death to the thing being created if magnified to such a degree as to become the sole motivation for art. I’ve read that the ideal motive for creating art is to express, to give form and to concretize the vision, the longing, the dreams and sorrow that the artist sees or feels within his spirit. Period. When the work is done, then, it is well and good. Period. One may display the end-product or one may not. But if I do show to the world what I have created, then it is merely in order to share what I have to give (in this case, art), I, being part of the human community that (let’s face it) thrives on giving and receiving. If my art is well-received or not is really only secondary. The important thing being that I have done my part…

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New Year, New Discouragements

Yup, it sounds quite pessimistic, I know, but it’s true…

The past week I was reading a book titled, “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” by Eckstut and Sterry and as I read page after page I noticed myself getting more and more swamped with waves of discouragement. The book was quite an engaging read, informative, funny, witty, and yet, after a short while of perusing through its pages a would-be author like me readily gets the message: it’s mega hard, virtually impossible, for a first-time author to crack the shell of publishing and get his or her book published. Ouch!!! I landed to the bottom of a pit where all my efforts on the novel I’m writing seemed to have become part of the darkness surrounding me down there…On the other hand I know that I’ve got to climb up to surface. But how?

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What A Travel So Far!

It’s been two years since the day I typed the very first word of my very first novel, saw it hanging like a blotch above my computer screen. And from that moment on, as all aspiring author know, I was in for the roughest, stormiest, scariest ride of my life. Simply because I am steering through still untested waters (as far as I am concerned) and it’s dark and I can’t really see what lies ahead. There’ve been times during the travel though when I exhaled with a genuine feeling of satisfaction and truly believed I have what it takes to realize my ambition as a writer. But then these moments are usually short-lived. When you realize the bulk of work you still need to accomplish, the magnitude of the mountain you still need to climb, then down you go tumbling into the valley of pestering self-doubts: Am I up to it? Is it really worth it? Will people ever care about my work later on? Am I not just throwing precious chunks of time and effort? Am I having delusions about myself and my capabilities, holding on to a wholly unrealistic ambition?

The attacks of self-doubt are justified. Oftentimes, I don’t like my writing, don’t like my choice of a specific word, or that sentence, that phrase, sometimes a whole pharagraph just stinks I could only flinch with contempt. And in fact, I have already thrown away three whole chapters since I started editing for they no longer fit to the general plot as I’ve allowed the plot to take a slight turn. So I ferret through my brain for the right sounding word, labor to rewrite that sentence or decide, which is sometimes a very painful course to take, to delete it altogether, throwing it into oblivion into the so-called, cyber-limbo, wherever that is. The amount of white hair on my head has tremendously increased in the last two years than at any time of my earthly existence! I don’t know about other writers, but self-doubt has been my companion more constant and loyal than hope has been. And yet, ironically, after two years I’m still at it (nothing short of a miracle, really!) and still trying to ascend this steep craggy mountain taking one heavy gruelling step at a time. But, surprisingly, all the while, the thought pulsing in my temples is always: I’ve got to reach the summit, I’ve got to reach the summit…And, oh, thank God, my breath hasn’t failed so far!!

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Why I’m Taking This Travel

Ever since I read my first Enid Blyton book at the age of eleven, I’ve been consistently trying my hand on fiction writing, dreaming to become a full-fledged writer one day. But for some reasons it never occured to me to take up Creative Writing or some related course in college. Instead, aspiring to become another Frank Lloyd Wright (haha), I took up a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. But as soon as I finished my studies, I realized it wasn’t really the path I’d like to follow up to the end. Interestingly, during this period, I produced a short story and tried submitting it for publication to a literary-minded national magazine. It was my first ever attempt at publication and, miracle of all miracles, I got the nod of the chief editor! An every budding author’s dream! But that small success had never been duplicated since…

Fast forward to 17 years later, I suddenly found myself having that itch again to write. So I decided to Continue reading

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