Some Days, the Bear Eats You

You just finished that latest novel that’s been burning a hole in your brain for the last six months. You toss off the final “the end,” leave it in the virtual drawer for a couple of weeks (or hours), and then go back, look it over, analyze your flaws and errors, plot, characters, word choices, conflicts, all of it. And finally, after draft two (or ten), you think it’s time to send it out to some first readers. And you wait.

And then…no one likes it.

That’s right. You sit yourself down, look at all your readers’ notes and feedback and desperate attempts not to crush your spirit, and you finally have to face reality. Your book sucks, it’s boring, it doesn’t make sense, and for godiva’s sake, why are there yetis in space?—or put another way, some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.

So then what? Do you cry, moan, doubt yourself, realize that your dream of being a novelist is akin to dreaming of growing up to be Darth Vader, but with a less vaginal-looking helmet? Do you forsake your inner voice and promise to never again write a word in fun? From here on out, technical manuals only, period, the end.

Or do you smile and swallow that delicious, perfectly baked humble pie made especially for you, and think about just how fantastically grateful you are? Grateful, you say, but why? Because, think about it—writing is fun! Because now you know without a shadow of a doubt not only that your book is indeed imperfect, but also why. And guess what? You now have everything you need to jump back into that marvelous mess you’ve created and do more of what you love. You were given permission, nay, encouragement to go back to the playground and play yourself silly. You, my friend, get to keep writing, and that’s exactly what you wanted all along. Hooray, Writer!

And that bear that’s been nibbling on you? That guy is just your inner voice, reminding you that no one gets it right all the time, and showing a little backbone and tenacity is what makes you better than you were. Instead of being eaten by the bear, you are the bear.

Now go out and roar.

Image credits: “Ursus arctos lasiotus – Beijing Zoo 2” by JZ85 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

4 Replies to “Some Days, the Bear Eats You”

  1. Phillip McCollum

    Besides never looking at Darth Vader’s helmet the same again, this piece is chock-full of good advice. The bear can be nasty, but if you get him on your side, he’s an excellent ally (and useful against space yetis).

    Reply
  2. Henry Hyde

    One of my favourite sayings: “I make mistakes, but I *am not* my mistakes.” Readers may reject the work, but they haven’t rejected YOU. You are therefore, as you say, at liberty to have another try and make the work better. Many creative people confuse criticism of the work with criticism of them personally. Now, that really *is* a mistake! A pro *expects* to make mistakes – that’s how we learn and grow.

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