So I finished a sustained writing effort and felt euphoria from working consistently with characters and scenes. (200 pages! Yeah!) I wanted to share my elation and found my artist friend to explain what I had accomplished. He said, “I’m glad you finished your piece.” And that was it.
Later he caught up with me and wanted to expand his response. “It’s just that I have not read the book, and I don’t know what you mean.” I told him my theory about process frustration that all artists feel, but novelists feel in spades.
Signs of Process Frustration:
1) Did you ever talk for hours about your characters or themes to complete strangers?
2) After expressing you ideas about where you are in the project, did you find that you no longer have the creative energy to write?
3) Did you ever wear out family members describing the fresh scenes so they wonder what’s in your head and why didn’t you make dinner?
4) Did you become silent and selfish about the project or characters or themes because you believe expressing the ideas dilutes them?
5) Conversely, did you ever lend chapters to a friend only to get the critique “It needs work?”
How to Manage Process Frustration:
1) Recognize it for what it is. You are engaged with characters who your friends don’t know. Why mix the two?
2) Enjoy the euphoria of completion without tying it to the work – try a walk along the beach
3) Avoid visiting the emotive quotient on friends and family.
I had a good friend once who was a big sports fan. If his team won, we went out for a meal and batting practice. If his team lost, we left him alone in the man-cave rather than try to cheer him up. During play-offs, Sunday nights could be grim.
As a writer, I have found that this kind of spill-over makes even less sense because your family cannot engage with your characters.
Another choice is to find friends among writers and trade stories and chapters for critique. One recommended source is the fantasy writers group on Reddit. Some people swear by this process, but I have always found that my critiques are too detailed and poorly received. New writers, especially, are too sensitive for ideas for improvement.
I have found that discussing craftsmanship with fellow artists, some from tangent disciplines, helps with articulating method, constraints, signals for poor choices, finding satisfaction, learning from finished products, avoiding bad critiques. The chats about craft are often conceptual rather than practical, but serve as an area where we can at least admit the pressures and face the long stretches of time spent alone.
Your turn to participate… How do you manage process frustration?