Obsessing Over a Written Story: a Creative Dead End

One of the things that discombobulates me about the holidays are all the little problems and speed bumps that crop up and get in the way of my writing. I will be glad when all these holidays are over and we get into next week so I can concentrate on the mundane aspects of writing.

Now I will say this. I am very good at adaptation and working on the fly. I taught physics and chemistry for seven years. You can’t be a teacher and not learn some adaptive skills that can see you through rough spots.

One skill I have, and hope I never lose, is my ability to put a story behind me when I am finished with it. I never thought much about it until someone in my old Mississippi writing group asked about an old story of mine. I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. I had completely forgotten that story…because I was totally focused on a new story.

It happens to me all the time. When I am working on a story I am invested in everything about it. Then I send it off to be published or considered for publication and I forget all about it. I don’t remember it. I don’t obsess over it. I don’t sit around wringing my hands wondering if an editor will like it or is reading it or is rejecting it. Bottom line….I don’t give a tinker’s damn what happens to that story once I send it out because I have turned all my attention to the next story.

Now, look, of course I want the story to sell. Of course I want to get some money for it and I want people to like it. But I am a writer. And writing is all about what have you done lately. You don’t get far in this profession by looking back all the time. That’s my opinion, anyway. But let’s be fair here. What good does obsessing over sales figures or reviews or whatnot do you other than give you an ulcer? Forget about that story. You did your best, you poured all your creative energy into it and sent it out into the wild to sink or swim on its own. You gave it your best shot. Forget about it and go to work on your next story.

I don’t read reviews. I don’t care about sales. Which is not to say it’s not nice to get good reviews and good sales numbers. Of course it is. But that’s not why I write.  You ask a hundred different writers and they will give you a hundred different answers why they write. I have my own reasons and sitting around worried about reviews or sales figures ain’t one of ’em. Those things are nice. But they are a lagniappe compared to the real reason I write, and why I must write. And they will never be the most important thing to me. Not ever.

I want people to like my stories. I want people to buy my stories and look forward to the next one. And if they have a foundational problem with a story or a direction of the story (especially an editor) I definitely want to hear that. I am always about making the story better. I am never so wedded to any story I think it’s perfect and cannot be changed f0r the better. I know some writers think that about their work. Well, that works for them.

Write a good story. Then send it out and forget about it. Start on your next story. As a writer it’s always the next story you are going to write that is the most important one. That’s my philosophy about writing. I expect you have developed your own and it works well for you. That’s one thing I like about process. We all do this writing stuff differently but we all end up at the same place: a finished story. That creative process, and all the avenues and side paths we can take, fascinate me.

Keep writing!

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2 Comments

  1. K.M., your old Mississippi writing group? I would love to know if that was either in Natchez or Oxford, perchance. (granbee is a native Mississippian, okay?) Anyway, I totally agree with you that we write because we MUST. The older I get, the more I know it is the only thing I really, really, really want to do professionally. Thank you for this end-of-the-year pep talk, as it were!

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