It seems that, with everything I write, I go through these stages. I can’t be alone in this.
Stage 1: There’s this phrase. This idea. This nugget or image that sparks it. Maybe it’s inspiration, a voice from beyond, a scene, a plot point, a thought or insight, a problem I’m working out, feelings to express. Who knows. It comes from a thousand places. Sometimes it comes from a list of “stuff to write,” my go-to place when I’m not feeling inspired. But something will be the spark (even when it doesn’t feel like a spark) and I’ll start rolling with it. Easy at first. Words flowing. One, two, maybe three paragraphs, no problem.
Stage 2: WHY ARE THE WORDS SO HARD WHY WON’T THE WORDS COOPERATE WHY WORDS WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO
Stage 3: OH I FOUND THE WORDS THERE THEY ARE I LOVE WRITING WRITING IS THE BEST YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY.
(Alternate Stage 2 and 3 until the thing is written.)
Stage 4: I’ve written the thing. Maybe it was difficult, maybe it was easy; usually a combination of the two. Even in the writing, it never lives up to what I’m trying to say, never quite gets there. It’s always imperfect. But right after I’ve written it, there’s a glow, an optimistic haze. I feel pretty good about what I’ve written at this point.
Stage 5: After an edit (or not) and a proofread (or not), I’ve put the thing out there, in one form or another. It’s live, I’ve shared it… now I load it up again, kind of a morbid curiosity pushing me on, and start reading it, and… and… oh dear God, it’s horrible. Terrible. I mean. Truly, truly awful. What… who… why did? Why did I ever… ? What was I thinking? This is awful. The worst thing I’ve ever read. I should burn down the whole Internet. Did I already share the link? Oh no. I did. It’s out there now. Would anyone notice if I deleted it? I should never write anything, ever again.
Stage 6: I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED THAT TYPO. Also, what was I thinking with that one sentence. And that other one. And the adverbs. ALL THE ADVERBS. Uuuuuuuuuugh. I need more coffee.
Stage 7: Life called, and I had to move on from the utter despair and humiliation of having written something so purely and utterly awful. I had to do things like eat breakfast and shower and do laundry and read a book and go to the beach and the memory lessened and turns out, I’m still alive and no word-mobs are after me, so I… I… do it again. Start writing. Yes. I know. It’s terrifying. But I do. And then, sometime later, days or weeks later, I’ll stumble back on this piece. I’ll look at it with a bit of disinterest, a bit of objectivity. Like a tourist, or friendly but uninvested stranger. And… and… well, it’s not so bad. It’s kind of… okay. That line there – that bit – I like. Yeah. This bit though, oh, yeah, that’s rather awful. But it’s okay. Overall. Not terrible. Some good sentences. Some awful ones. Altogether, alright.
Stage 8: OH NO SOMEONE IN PERSON IN REAL LIFE IS ASKING ME ABOUT SOMETHING I WROTE WHAT IF THEY HATE IT WHAT IF THEY’RE SECRETLY MOCKING ME WHAT IF EVERYTHING I’VE EVER WRITTEN IS TERRIBLE WHAT IF THEY FIND OUT I CAN’T REALLY WRITE THINGS HOW DO THEY KNOW I CAN TELL THEY KNOW THEY THINK IT’S AWFUL LOOK THEY’RE MAKING A PITY FACE BUT TRYING NOT TO SHOW IT OH NO OH NO THIS IS TERRIBLE I CAN’T EVER SEE PEOPLE OR GO ONLINE AGAIN I MUST MOVE TO SIBERIA AND NOT HAVE INTERNETS AND LIVE IN THE SNOW AND NEVER WRITE AGAIN AND HIDE FOREVER
Stage 9: I have this idea. This phrase. This thought. This image… it won’t go away. I think I’ll write about it.