An Odd Sense Of Vulnerability

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Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Russell Saunders
    Ignored
    says:

    Oh, I know that feeling soooooooo well.

    You’re better off than me, though, my friend. I can’t even read old blog posts without wanting to pretend I’d never written them.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Russell Saunders
      Ignored
      says:

      That sensation just means you’re becoming a better writer. Every reasonably sane person is his own worst critic: I’m sure as a professional, you feel the same way about some of your early work.

      Look, you don’t cut your own hair, either, so don’t be the judge of your own writing. The trick is to write for one other person. Every reasonably sane person is his own worst critic. There’s always that inner voice which mocks and torments us with our own inadequacies, a voice others don’t hear. In the schizophrenic, that voice can get out of control but for most of us, that inner crazy, horrid voice is a survival mechanism, teaching us not to repeat previous mistakes.

      Once you’ve written something, resist the urge to return to it, endlessly editing it. Walt Whitman got wrapped around that axle and his Leaves of Grass grew progressively more fussy and inane with each such edition. The first versions of his poems were the best, the most direct.

      As for you, Mr. Likko, sir, your prose is entirely adequate. I always look forward to everything you write. You just need to write for that One Person and stop fretting about that Sense of Vulnerability. Trust me on this: all you need is that One Reader. Tell your story to that person and the world be damned.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to BlaiseP
        Ignored
        says:

        On this blog, I write for myself — what would I want to read? My theory is that I’m not so very different from other people, so if I’m interested in it, enough other people will be interested in it, too.

        I try and think that way when I reduce my imagination into fiction, but maybe it’s just inexperience with that mode which leaves me less confident in myself. Thank you (everyone) for the words of encouragement and sympathy.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP
        Ignored
        says:

        The trick is to write for one other person.

        I write for Bill Gates. One of these days he’s going to write back “That joke was worth a million dollars!”Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to BlaiseP
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m a little embarrassed to admit this because they are much better writers than I, but I write for a dual audience of George Orwell and Eliezer Yudkowsky. My hope is that if I remember that clarity is the most important thing I will at least occasionally be intelligible.Report

  2. Avatar Kim
    Ignored
    says:

    Burt,
    A rejection notice says that they /like/ your work. A good editor makes a story much, much better.
    You would not believe what people submit to editors! (seriously, horrid typos, forgetting the names of characters
    completely implausible nonsense).Report

  3. Avatar Dale Forguson
    Ignored
    says:

    If you recall Otzi the iceman and the Amesbury Archer stories in the news, then you know what sparked my imagination and curiosity. I too have a beginning of a rough draft I’ve labored over which may never be seen by other eyes. I can only say that it lead me to research a period of Mediterranean and European history about which I was sadly uninformed. I have found it fascinating, it has given me a deeper understanding of how western civilization developed. I have learned many interesting tidbits on a wide range of topics along the way.

    Even if you never finish/publish there are other benefits that will accrue.

    BlaiseP – Well said!Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Here’s a good quote from Ira Glass that is intended to be helpful:

    “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      That’s a very helpful, and encouraging, read.

      My big worry today is that it’s too much like GRRM, because I’m rotating third-person narratives between three characters and that feels a little bit too much like the Game of Thrones convention of shifting points of view. I don’t want to be derivative. But that’s a lesser worry, actually — I’m fairly confident my voice and not my imitation of someone else’s voice will be what’s there, and it’s okay to be influenced by someone as long as you don’t try to copy them.Report

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