by Deren Hansen
Why are writers susceptible to such fears?
on my amateur therapist goatee and breaking out the bubble pipe, we
have not one but two potential pitfalls awaiting us when we finish a
project. The first is psychological and the second structural. They're a
nasty pair because they feed off of each other. If you're not careful,
you'll find yourself immobilized.
The Psychological Problem
other professions, one can use a title only after a significant and
demonstrable achievement. Lawyers have bar exams. Doctors have medical
school, and internships, and residencies. Many other professions can't
be practiced without a license. It's natural to assume that a published
book is the writer's equivalent of professional certification.
there's the arduous process of turning ideas into prose, polishing the
manuscript, and persevering through the publishing process, and you have
every right to think that you've accomplished something significant.
When you've done that, it's natural is to believe that you've learned
something and are better at what you do.
The net effect
is a tendency to believe that now you're good. You may have given
yourself license to suck when you were starting out, but you're beyond
that now, right? So you bang out the first few pages of the new project
and ... they're not very good. And suddenly you have to question
everything you assumed about your new identity.
The psychological trap is believing you've become something different than you were when you started your first project.
The Structural Problem
more fundamental mistake is to forget the process by which you created
your first book--the multiple drafts, the rounds of revisions, the hours
spent agonizing over a key word or phrase.
succeed in depressing yourself if you compare your new project to the
book you just finished. A project that's only a month old will always
look primitive compared to one you've revised and polished for a year or
If you must compare something, compare first
drafts. Chances are you'll find that the first draft for your second
project is better than your first draft for your first project.
So What Can You Do?
who have real credentials, practice medicine. Writers would do well to
follow that example: we should see ourselves not as a someone who
possesses some expertise but as someone who practices the art of
refining words into stories through a patient process.