When All Is Said & Done

There’s an exact moment when I read something I wrote and I go, “Damn. I am so right for this business.” Or I suppose, more accurately, there are two moments.

The first comes during the raw writing process. When everything is still in idea form, and you’re just cruising on the adrenaline of creation going Yeah! No one has ever been this brilliant or creative or well-written ever! I like to think that’s about a third of the actual writing process — cruising on pure ego. The other two thirds are agonizing through the parts in-between, when you realize this story is ridiculous and derivative and your parents were right, why didn’t you just go into accounting like your sister?1

I’m convinced that the editing process is one long exercise in executing well-aimed kidney punches at yourself until you’re peeing blood and wishing silently for death. If there is a single second where I can see through the haze of anger and frustration long enough to recognize why something might be a good passage, then I’m pleased with myself. More likely than not, I’m going to realize why all the parts I like, while not bad, don’t belong in the story.

As you might have guessed, I spend more time hating my writing than I do enjoying it. I love writing. The process of writing, of putting one word after another to make an idea become a real thing, is amazing. It’s all the stuff after that, when the writing is over and the polishing begins. There are entire weeks where I don’t understand how my self-worth is tied so tightly into something that I’m convinced I’m terrible at. But I keep going. Because I’m bull-headed. Because I love the story.

Then it’s over. The story is finished. It’s been posted online (usually) or mailed off or whatever else I decided to do with that particular piece. I stop dedicating precious brain space to making it better, cleaning it up, making it perfect, making it shine and sparkle and gleam and why are so many writing metaphors about clean things? I’m a terrible housekeeper!

Usually after a couple of days to drink away the memory of the editorial process, I lean back and start skimming the story. Ostensibly I’m looking for errors I missed, but it’s more that I’m finally able to stop looking at the story as a project and start looking at is as a narrative. I can start actually seeing the whole thing.

That’s the moment. I start to pick out the things that make me believe I’m a good writer. The subtly of motion and the undercurrent to the dialogue. The little details that I didn’t see, the way I wove things together when I wasn’t trying so hard.

Until it’s over, I’m fairly incapable of looking at my writing objectively. Even then, I’m probably not; I’m probably too far over in the adoration phase while I wait for responses. And you know — fuck it. That’s cool. I feel like when it’s all said and done, I owe myself a little bit of adoration. Because then it’s right back on to peeing blood over the next idea.

1. My sister isn’t in accounting, and my parents never said that, but still. It’s my crushed ego, I’ll do what I want.

Ashley M. Hill found her voice in science fiction when her curiosity about technology coupled with the lifelong urge to tell stories. Her interest in social and feminist issues shapes how she approaches the genre. She's pursuing computer and network repair for her day job.

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