Hating my Book Babies

In On Writing, On Writing-General by Louisa Leontiades

I’ve never had any patience with the whole tortured artist thing. And now I am one. But as it turns out torture isn’t exactly the right word, it’s more like ‘itchy’ (but ‘the itchy artist’ doesn’t sound as good). The itch comes when there is an uncomfortable skin prickling as you read your previous work with its dull vapid characters, ill paced plot and think to yourself  ‘get this thing away from me’. An allergic reaction, followed by some involuntary retching and a spiral of self doubt which sucks you down the plughole.

Writing, as with any other craft, is a skill that improves the more you practice. As Forrest Gump might have said, evolution happens. My current project is coming to life a I chip away at the stone to reveal curves and beauty buried within the cold dead rectangle that was the first draft. Like Pygmalion, I fall in love with what I’m sculpting and I suppose it’s natural that the love for the new supersedes that of the old. At least temporarily. And yet it’s also human nature that you want to be proud of what you’ve produced, of the work that is out there in the world. My first novels resided in the tombs of my hard drive and now I wouldn’t be proud of anyone reading them. Nevertheless I loved them when I wrote them, pretentious musings of a teenage brain.

But today my work is deemed good enough to publish. Surely that means that I can look back on at least those fondly? No. It is of small comfort to remind myself that even acclaimed authors, A.A. Milne, Anthony Burgess among them also hated some of what they wrote. Instead I go back to the editorial reviews which sing my books’ praises, and the read the reviews of those who loved them. And realise that even if I hate my book babies, there are many out there who’ve enjoyed them. And I cross my fingers that  I can give the readers something better next time.