I don’t know if it’s the time of year, or perhaps it’s because I’ve spent a great deal of time discussing in-progress anthology submissions with other authors, but I’ve spoken with quite a few who are not so thrilled with their work. This also includes one visual artist.
Off topic: Now I want to write a story about a cursed anthology. Those involved in the project all start to feel uneasy, dissatisfied, and unsettled, but it has nothing to do with the normal “I hate my work” periods artists frequently experience. No, it’s something worse. The anthology is cursed. The authors and artists somehow find themselves in the more unpleasant situations from the tales of the book. You’ve heard of all those cursed films? Well, this is a cursed book.
Also off topic: Maybe I should just start promoting the anthology as cursed, and making a promotion package that includes a Ouija board and sage.
On topic: We all go through those phases where we think our work is horrid. Some of us imagine legions of people taking to Twitter, full of rage at something I– I mean we, had written. Or we toss our beautifully drawn evil robot into the trash. Then four more evil robots join it, to create a trashcan army of evil robots, who are probably plotting to takeover humanity, and let’s not go that route.
Why is it we all go through these periods of finding our own words or drawings nearly repulsive? Is it because we’re imaginative and our imagination can obsess over failure?
What is failure? Is it marked by falling under a certain sale threshold? Is it a slew of bad reviews? Is it one bad review? Is it angry people on social media? Is it an evil robot army in a waste bin?
Failure is imperfection. We want our work to be perfect. We tell ourselves it must be perfect. We set high bars for ourselves, which isn’t always bad, but there’s that word. Must. One thing that worked for me is changing my way of thinking. Whenever I catch myself using the M-word, I shake my head and say, often aloud, “I’d like for this work to be excellent.” There is no “must.” There is no impossible “perfect” in that statement. It is realistic, and all while encouraging me to do my best.
Then, of course, there is another route that also helps. Ask a critical friend to read your work. If you’re a Hollow Hills author, you get me and my snark in your margins. But, snarky or not, find a friend who you trust to be honest.
Keep working. Keep writing. Keep drawing. And don’t start a legion of evil robots in wastepaper baskets. It’s okay to throw out your work, but it’s a problem if you’re tossing most of it – a good sign you’re being too hard on yourself.