Over the weekend, I had a chance to talk with a writer-friend about one of the problems we all seem to face: the moment we realize the work-in-progress (WIP) is, in fact, crap. I think there is at least one of those moments in every WIP, and perhaps tracking the number and magnitude of the conviction that the work is crap would result in a useful crap-index, and, at some very high number, cause the author to actually discard it this time around.
The nice thing about this conviction is that we usually get over it, to a greater or lesser extent. Orson Scott Card has gone so far as to say that the successful writer can hold two ideas simultaneously in mind: 1. the WIP is absolutely brilliant, and 2. the WIP is absolute crap. He argues that the first will keep you excited about it, while the second keeps you striving harder to improve it.
But what often happens is that these two beliefs slide apart, so at times you believe in your own genius, and at times, you want to throw your computer off a cliff and go to work at McDonald’s. The conviction of crapiness can also lead to a more intermediate state I think of as “Writer’s Blech.” In Writer’s Block (which I believe is mostly mythical) you can’t think what to write next. If you suffer from Writer’s Blech, on the other hand, you know what’s meant to happen, what you’re meant to write, but you just don’t see the point in carrying on with this drivel. Why simply pile on crap?
The short answer is, it’s fertilizer. Sometimes, rolling up your sleeves and going to work even when the WIP seems to stink to high heaven will lead to the discovery of something new and exciting about it. Sometimes, the ongoing collision of ideas as you try to work through this bit results in a much stronger scene. And sometimes, you keep on writing–without revising, without changing the plan, thinking you will make it better at some later date–only to find that the section is actually quite good and the crap was all in your head, a manifestation of the writer constantly feeling that he’s an impostor, not worth reading at all.
Writer’s Blech is an invitation to dig deeper and stretch further, and, above all else, to have faith in yourself and in your vision. You know what you need to do, so go do it!