Monday, September 12, 2005

On writing and chocolate

"In the beginning, the Lord created chocolate, and he saw that it was good. Then he separated the light from the dark, and it was better."

I go into a zone when I’m writing. It’s a very intense kind of focus and, as I’m in it, I’m madly in love with my words. It’s when I go back later and reread that I decide it’s utter crap. Or not. Either way, I find that treating myself to a few bites of dark chocolate—either as reward or solace—is a valuable part of the process.

Show me a writer who’s 100% confident in his or her work, and I’ll show you a dreadful writer. I think it’s the nature of what we do that makes us second guess our own judgment. If we’re not constantly tormenting ourselves over whether or not we’re good enough, then we just don’t get anywhere.

A long time ago I posted a very short story on Zoetrope, my online writers’ workshop. The style was a departure for me, so I was insecure about it to begin with. Then it got terrible reviews from my fellow workshoppers—some of the worst I’d ever received. I was about to yank the story from the site and throw it away when another writer I greatly respect put the brakes on. She said the story was wonderful and that if readers weren’t getting it, eff ‘em.

I’m glad I listened to her, because it got published and remains one of my favorite stories. The lesson here? I’d like to say it’s to believe in yourself, but this is writing, not a Disney movie. The lesson, I think, is that we have to accept the fact that we can’t be all things to all people. Even our best work is going to be hated by some. There's no accounting for taste, as they say.

I've even heard there are some folks who prefer milk chocolate to dark, though I suspect that's some kind of crazy urban myth.

If you're curious to read the story in question, check it out here:
"Back to Sleep" in Pindeldyboz


katrina said...

Oh yes, Pia was right. This story is marvelous, Ellen. Full of suprises.


Ellen said...

Thanks so much, Kat!

Fred said...

I'm more of a Red Vines guy. But point taken. The point of writing isn't to please 10 out of ten readers, or even five out of ten. The point is to find 1 in 10 who really loves your work, and the other 9 don't matter. Also, the other point, is to get groupies. Which helps you to get laid. Which may not be an issue for you, but it is for lots of writers. In the meantime, enjoy the chocolate.


Katie said...

I've only ever written one story that I unabashedly love and wouldn't change a word of and still twitter with glee when I read it. However, NOBODY wants to publish it and the groupies have yet to come knocking.

Ellen said...

Fred, if writing gets me groupies, who am I to argue?

Katie, keep subbing that story!