Hopes and Realization

Nothing you write, if you hope to be good, will ever come out as you first hoped. Lillian Hellman, Playwright.

Miss Lillian Hellman

Miss Lillian Hellman

Several days ago, I posted a short piece of fiction.

I wrote the story in June. I came back to it a few weeks ago, and began to rewrite it. I wanted to make it tighter, sharper. In my head, I knew what sort of mood I wanted to convey, the feelings I wanted to evoke in the reader. After the rewrites, I thought I had captured all of that, and so I posted the story.

As Miss Hellman said, nothing you write ever comes out as you first hoped… not if you hope to be good.

I took another look at the story yesterday. I think it’s a fairly good first effort, but there are things I might do differently. There are some passages that might have been worded more clearly, more cleanly. Perhaps some surgery to excise superfluous emotion. I’m not sure. I just know it did not come out as I first hoped.

It came close. But something is still missing.

I am not satisfied.

The hardest thing for a writer, I think, is satisfaction with the final product. At what point do you know it’s time to walk away?

Are you your biggest critic? I’d have to say that I am. In my heart (and my head!), I know the emotions I want to evoke in a reader. The trick is in getting those emotions out of my head and onto paper. It is seldom easy. Sometimes it’s so damned hard that a litany of negativity begins to assert itself, making the job even more difficult: who are you kidding? you’ll never be a writer; you don’t have it in you; you can’t even figure out how to convey this one simple feeling to a reader.

And that is when I step away from the keyboard, feeling bruised and battered from the words of the Little Doubter who has a small furnished flat inside my head.

Generally, a good night’s sleep helps me put things in perspective. More often than not, the advice of a respected, trusted friend will do the trick (Lennon and McCartney were right: we do get by with a little help from our friends). With adequate rest and a friend to lean on, my batteries are recharged and I go at it again. More determined.

It’s encouraging to read Hellman’s words. It gives me comfort when she admits that if you want to be a good writer, you must realize that what you write will never come out as you first hoped. A good writer, I think, is never completely satisfied. What we “hope” to show you, make you feel, make you experience, will never be exactly what we envisioned, what we originally had in our head. But we try to come as close as possible. Oh, yes, we do try.

My writing journey has just begun. For where I am at this point in time, I came reasonably close to sharing with readers what was in my head when I wrote this story. My hope was to illustrate how the past sometimes bleeds into the present. I did not completely realize this hope – at least not to my satisfaction.

Not this time.

I stay hungry for full realization, determined to get just a little bit closer with each story… or with each sentence, each paragraph. I visualize the process of realization somewhat like a sculptor with block of stone before him: he continues to painstakingly chip away at it until, finally, he has realized in stone the image that was in his head.

I’m not disheartened. I’ll keep trying to play with words in the hope that next time I’ll get a little closer to realizing my vision. It’s been said that all artists start out as amateurs. We learn as we go.

Next time, I’m going to try to ignore the Little Doubter inside who is waiting to knock me down a peg or two. In fact, I may give him notice that his lease is up. I can’t afford him any longer. I’m not going to waste my time listening to him.

I’d rather listen to Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”


Sir Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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23 Responses to Hopes and Realization

  1. Your post could not have been better timed. That obnoxious Little Doubter is sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear as we speak. I am deep in the midst of a battle between myself, my characters and that horrid fellow called Doubt. A three ring circus inside my head! I have decided to scrap numerous chapters, they felt too forced, in too many pieces – the flow was just not there. I was thinking long and hard of the incredible story in my head, how on earth do I record it? I won’t forget your thoughts on the subject, and Miss Lillian Hellman’s advice. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      What a lovely comment. I’ll share with you what one of my respected fellow bloggers said to me: kick that Little Doubter to the curb (or in your case, knock him off your shoulder!). Thank you for chiming in – I appreciate it!

  2. Kick that little doubter to the curb, Kate!

    From my own perspective, only having a rough idea of where I want a story to lead is half the fun. The story and the character often have their own ideas of where they want to go and I believe that one of the joys of writing is being taken along by them to somewhere you had never imagined they would.

    As always, a great and thought-provoking post.

    Heather xxx

  3. L. Palmer says:

    It is the need for satisfaction that can drive all writer’s crazy. Knowing the point to stop fixing things and get the work out into the world has been one of my greatest struggles. We grow and learn with every project as writers, and so everything can always be better. The question is if it is polished enough.

  4. Thanks so much for posting this. I can completely relate. I have had only one story in the past few years that I felt lived up to what I had envisioned for it and that was only a recent development. Thank you so much for the honesty and encouragement. I needed that today. πŸ™‚

  5. revgerry says:

    Love this. ” Little Doubter who has a small furnished flat inside my head.” Well done, I completely get that. Thanks.

  6. Jackie says:

    Deep down in my gut I will always feel that even the most successful published author can look back at their work and feel it could always be cleaner…clearer in many aspects, better! When should we stop trying to improve? I don’t think it’s possible to stop…even after publication. As parents of adult children, we still offer them advice!!!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      I think you’re right about an author’s tendency to always think he or she could have improved something they’ve written. I liked your analogy of parents with adult children; our stories do become our children in some sense. After all, we gave them life, right? Thanks for the comment!

  7. gpeynon says:

    Wise words from the Winston…

    • Kate Loveton says:

      He was a very wise man in many ways, but most of all I liked his commitment to a goal. He was a man of fierce determination. There’s another quote by him that I like: “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” Apply that one to a sticky plot problem! πŸ™‚

  8. Well said, Kate. You just keep finding your courage. I loved your story.
    ~Audrey πŸ™‚

  9. As someone with a literary blog, I totally relate to this. I am always my biggest critique, and I think as writers we all struggle with this. I think it is best to just trust your readers as much as you trust yourself.

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