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KTC
02-19-2008, 06:31 AM
My once-a-month critique group just ended. It was my month to be critiqued. I sat listening as the rest of the group discussed my story. They speak of under currents and plots and threads and characters having arcs and stuff I just don't get. They speak of all these things I didn't know I was doing. I feel I should feel good about it...that I get these things between my lines and that they all seemed to pull the same stuff out of it...but I feel more like a big fake than anything else. I don't know how I could do all these things without setting out to do them and I don't know if I should argue with them and say, "wasn't me". I was sitting there in awe of what they were telling me...but then I just started to feel unattached to my own work. How could I have missed everything? They speak of nuance and other things and I become puzzled. Do you ever get the feeling that your readers are reading something other than the piece you wrote? How do you deal with that? Do you try to convince them that it was all accidental...do you try to say that you didn't intend what they got out of it, but that you intended this and that instead? I guess it's up to the reader to take out of a story what they will...but how could I be so blind to all this under current stuff...it just sounded so pretentious...

Do you ever feel completely lost like you have no goddamned idea what you're doing? When you do, do you just go along for the ride? How can I own what I write when it's not what they're reading?



KTC's meltdown #275

Stew21
02-19-2008, 06:38 AM
I think a lot of "fly-by-the-seat" writers feel that way. I never intended for A LOT of what is in my book to be there.
YOU were the one who told me why it was a good idea for Oliver not to want to touch the books. Other betas found things I didn't realize. I didn't know some of it was there. I didn't realize how much a couple of my readers found in the Gretchen scene with Eric fighting with the furniture, or how Eric sinking into the shadow was such a physical representation of his internal struggle. I just tried to write a good story.
Also, I don't think you have to know all the fancy words for what makes up a good story to be a good storyteller, you don't have to understand all of the themes of your work when you write it the first time. They appear in the dig and if you're lucky, you brush them off and they are the artifacts other people will cherish that you never knew were anything special way back when you buried them in your story. Some people come by that uncovering and dusting off naturally. You don't know you are doing it because it is so a part of your nature. But you read it in others, I know you do - in published and unpublished work - you do it. It's easier to see in someone else's work - they probably think they didn't mean for it to be there too.
We all feel like fakes. I think we will continue to feel that way for as long as we write.

I'm going to find that Dean Koontz link again, I think you'll like what he has to say. Here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2073203&postcount=22)

Take heart, not knowing you put it there doesn't negate the skill and talent it takes to put it there.

bluntforcetrauma
02-19-2008, 06:44 AM
My once-a-month critique group just ended. It was my month to be critiqued. I sat listening as the rest of the group discussed my story. They speak of under currents and plots and threads and characters having arcs and stuff I just don't get. They speak of all these things I didn't know I was doing. I feel I should feel good about it...that I get these things between my lines and that they all seemed to pull the same stuff out of it...but I feel more like a big fake than anything else. I don't know how I could do all these things without setting out to do them and I don't know if I should argue with them and say, "wasn't me". I was sitting there in awe of what they were telling me...but then I just started to feel unattached to my own work. How could I have missed everything? They speak of nuance and other things and I become puzzled. Do you ever get the feeling that your readers are reading something other than the piece you wrote? How do you deal with that? Do you try to convince them that it was all accidental...do you try to say that you didn't intend what they got out of it, but that you intended this and that instead? I guess it's up to the reader to take out of a story what they will...but how could I be so blind to all this under current stuff...it just sounded so pretentious...

Do you ever feel completely lost like you have no goddamned idea what you're doing? When you do, do you just go along for the ride? How can I own what I write when it's not what they're reading?



KTC's meltdown #275

I'm not clever enough to write undercurrents, etc. My stories are pretty much linear and on the surface. If the undercurrent's so great why don't they make it the main story instead? Pretentiousness? Yep, I see alot of that crap. Buit you see that in any profession. I'd just thank them for the assessments and move on.

Heck, I feel like a phony typing a story.

Devil Ledbetter
02-19-2008, 06:51 AM
I like what Tom Robbins said in his NaNoWriMo pep talk (http://www.nanowrimo.org/node/1052008).


you simply pack your imagination, your sense of humor, a character or two, and your personal world view into a little canoe, push it out onto the vast dark river, and see where the currents take you. And should you ever think you hear the sound of dangerous rapids around the next bend, hey, hang on, tighten your focus, and keep paddling---because now you're really writing, baby! I think if you've done that much, the rest falls into place. Your critique group is noticing character arcs and whatnot because that's what they're looking for. And if they're finding it, that's a good thing, whether you did it deliberately or not.

Stew21
02-19-2008, 06:54 AM
God, I love Tom Robbins. I always have, but that quote makes me love him more.
s
Kevin, just jump. And when you hit the ground, do a flip then land on your feet, just stand there and smile. Smile like you meant to do that.

TrainofThought
02-19-2008, 06:57 AM
Do I feel like a liar/fake? No. Because I don’t consider myself a writer, an expert in the writerly rules and I know my weaknesses. If I write something and others interpret it as something else, then I didn’t communicate it properly.

Now, do I feel completely lost? Hell yeah! Knowing my weaknesses and trying to fix them creates turmoil from head to pen. :Shrug:

IceCreamEmpress
02-19-2008, 07:03 AM
Writing and reading are different things, with different tool kits; literary analysis, which is a subset of reading, has a very specialized tool kit all its own.

People can write intuitively, and that's totally valid. However, there really isn't a way to critique intuitively--so people who are critiquing are going to drag out the tool kits of literary analysis, and those include concepts like "undercurrents" and "foreshadowing".

But that's all post-hoc analysis. If someone's an intuitive writer, they may well have undercurrents and foreshadowing and mimetic re-representation and all of that other stuff in their work, but have done it all by ear rather than consciously.

That doesn't make you a fake, or them pretentious. It just reflects different processes and approaches in action.

Did it feel like the critiques were wrong, or off base? Or were you just put off by the language people were using? A "character arc," for instance, is a specific name for something that most people understand intuitively--the shape of a character's emotional/psychological journey. Obviously, you meant your characters to have emotional and psychological journeys and development, even if you didn't use the words "character arc" when thinking about it.

kdnxdr
02-19-2008, 07:13 AM
Personally, I believe a writer is writer, is a writer. It's in you to write.

You are not a one dimensional being. You have aspects of your own self that are a part of who you are at all times that you are not even aware of your own self. If that weren't true, there would be absolutely no need for psychoanalysis or introspection and such.

Sometimes, it takes a best friend or a close family member to bring to our attention characteristics about ourself that we stumble past everyday.

It those great moments of trials and tribulations that are always extremely revealing of who we are and what we're made of.

I think it's all those buried thoughts/feelings/characteristics of who we are that leak out into our stories and part of the thrill, for me, is being suprised at discovering things about oneself.

kid

Sean D. Schaffer
02-19-2008, 07:16 AM
The only time I ever feel that way, is when I write a good story. That's because my good stories didn't have outlines; they just happened.

And I most certainly have had critiques where people said I implied this or that, where I had no such intention. I'm sure you could take any written work out there, and find something -- heck, a lot of somethings! -- that the author never dreamed of.

So yeah, I feel like a flake sometimes, especially when I have to hand over the controls to my characters and let them tell the story. It's not fun at first, but it's a lot more satisfying to me when I do go along for the ride. :)


--Sean

melaniehoo
02-19-2008, 07:30 AM
*raises hand* Yes.

I agree with what a lot of people have said here. If you read a lot and also write, the techniques work themselves into your head whether you're consciously thinking about it or not.

Red-Green
02-19-2008, 08:10 AM
Liar and fake? Nah. Fabulously lucky scam artist? Yup.

One of my writing profs once described the best writers as idiot/savants. People who didn't even have a clue what they were doing. It was why he mocked the idea that you could learn anything about a writer's work by listening to them talk about it. "What do they know about what they've written?" he said.

Toothpaste
02-19-2008, 08:13 AM
Feeling like that today actually!

KTC
02-19-2008, 08:20 AM
Well, I certainly feel like an idiot. Savant? Not so much. Thanks all for your feedback. Red...you really hit on something there that I hope is true. "What do they know about what they've written?" That's how I felt tonight as they discussed my excerpt. How does your work grow once it leaves you? It's just a bizarre concept to me. Maybe the others have the same experience and they're just not nutty enough to say it out loud when it freaks them out. Thanks for the links Trish and Dev...it's good to see stuff like that...really. I always feel like 'they' have some omnipotent power and know how to do everything just the right way. It seems 'they' are just as stumbling. I just feel completely in the dark when people tell me stuff about my writing. I felt myself being hauled in... but then I felt compelled to say, "Stop right there. I'm not that savy. I did not do that on purpose. I didn't even mean for that to happen." Then you don't want them to think that you're just floating around like a I don't know what not knowing what you're doing but just hoping the words land on the page in the right order. It's disconcerting. Yes, Icecream...maybe I can get behind that different process thing. Sounds less like I just don't know what I'm doing. I'm such a flake. I just feel the need to understand the process. Ever feel like you're blind reaching for fire?

kdnxdr
02-19-2008, 08:25 AM
"Ever feel like you're blind reaching for fire?"

What a fantastic line! Did you mean to do that?

Cassiopeia
02-19-2008, 08:27 AM
The most difficult thing for me is when people get all writerly on me. They pull things apart and analyze things that I didn't intend. I just try to tell my story as best I can and hope for the best.

I don't sit and think, "hmmm..where should my story arch? what nuance shall i give this scene." I just write.

If it helps, I love your poetry. I don't analyze it. I just love it. It brings me places and that's all that matters to me.

kellytijer
02-19-2008, 08:39 AM
Yes! At the Inprint Series book reading I went to last night, though, something wonderful happened.

After an author named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sat down for a question/answer period, a member of the audience stood up and asked, "Were the sisters in your novel a metaphor for [yada, yada, yada]?"


She smiled and said, "No. They were just part of the story."


And then everyone laughed. She went on to note that she is constantly amazed at the amount of things people glean from her novels that weren't put there intentionally.

maestrowork
02-19-2008, 09:26 AM
Do you ever get the feeling that your readers are reading something other than the piece you wrote? How do you deal with that?

Yeah, quite often. I just smile and go with the ride. I think true literature is done subconsciously. And I appreciate people read things between the lines which I didn't consciously put in there, but who am I to argue? Granted, I think sometimes people do put too much into something -- what? the color red means NOTHING! Don't put words in my mouth -- and make the work seem deeper and more complex than it actually is. But again, who am I to argue with them? And if they think I'm deeper than I really am, so be it. I don't mind. ;)

But yeah, I feel like a fake/fraud all the time. Enjoy it. It means you're an artist!

Stew21
02-19-2008, 09:47 AM
Well, I certainly feel like an idiot. Savant? Not so much. Thanks all for your feedback. Red...you really hit on something there that I hope is true. "What do they know about what they've written?" That's how I felt tonight as they discussed my excerpt. How does your work grow once it leaves you? It's just a bizarre concept to me. Maybe the others have the same experience and they're just not nutty enough to say it out loud when it freaks them out. Thanks for the links Trish and Dev...it's good to see stuff like that...really. I always feel like 'they' have some omnipotent power and know how to do everything just the right way. It seems 'they' are just as stumbling. I just feel completely in the dark when people tell me stuff about my writing. I felt myself being hauled in... but then I felt compelled to say, "Stop right there. I'm not that savy. I did not do that on purpose. I didn't even mean for that to happen." Then you don't want them to think that you're just floating around like a I don't know what not knowing what you're doing but just hoping the words land on the page in the right order. It's disconcerting. Yes, Icecream...maybe I can get behind that different process thing. Sounds less like I just don't know what I'm doing. I'm such a flake. I just feel the need to understand the process. Ever feel like you're blind reaching for fire? Your stories appear on your page. You feel like they do it without much input from you. This happens to a lot of writers including some really famous ones. It is a gift. Take comfort, Dean Koontz never intended for clowns. You never intended for bloodbirds. I never intended for Ernest Hemingway.
You pluck a character from your head and pray you were the right person to pull the story from the space between us all. You hope you are the right story teller. Just trust it and go. You're not a flake.

You no more a nutter than I am.

Oh, wait...that wasn't very comforting was it?

:D

bluntforcetrauma
02-19-2008, 01:07 PM
"Ever feel like you're blind reaching for fire?"

What a fantastic line! Did you mean to do that?

I like the character arc and the underrcurrent of emotion. It's clear the author is alluding to a higher metaphysical/sandwich making plane than you or I mere mortals have ever attained.

Shweta
02-19-2008, 01:59 PM
Cognitive scientists often say that only 1% of our cognition is conscious. (It's a made-up number, but it's in the right ballpark).

So why would we want to write with only our conscious minds? We can probably do way better if our unconscious processes are affecting the story too :) So I'd call this a good thing.

bluntforcetrauma
02-19-2008, 02:03 PM
Cognitive scientists often say that only 1% of our cognition is conscious. (It's a made-up number, but it's in the right ballpark).

Well, my game got rained out!

johnrobison
02-19-2008, 03:53 PM
I read that feeling like a fraud or fake is common among people with Asperger's. Now, I know it to be common among highly creative people in general. So, one might infer, the more you have this feeling, the more creative you may be.

timewaster
02-19-2008, 04:38 PM
People can write intuitively, and that's totally valid. However, there really isn't a way to critique intuitively--so people who are critiquing are going to drag out the tool kits of literary analysis, and those include concepts like "undercurrents" and "foreshadowing".


I think that's right and for many people any attempt to apply the external apparatus of literary crit to work which they see from the inside is incredibly unhelpful.

But that's all post-hoc analysis. If someone's an intuitive writer, they may well have undercurrents and foreshadowing and mimetic re-representation and all of that other stuff in their work, but have done it all by ear rather than consciously.

I agree. I had a big online argument years ago when some established writer claimed that any writer worth his salt had a subtext or some thematic element going on in his work. I remember being quite cross and claiming categorically that there was nothing of the sort going on in my then, just published novel.
There was, but I couldn't see it for a good many years. Sometimes that stuff is simply a reflection of your particular world view and it is only evident to someone who doesn't entirely share it or your approach to writing.
These days I am much more aware of those kind of things, but only after I've writen them, never before.

CaroGirl
02-19-2008, 05:12 PM
My crit group read more than I intended into my work all the time. When I hear their lofty interepretation, I just prefer to think, "Wow, I'm smarter than I thought!"

NicoleMD
02-19-2008, 06:58 PM
If you write convincing characters in a realistic setting, I think all of that stuff will come out on its own. It's only natural, and you should be proud of doing so, even if it wasn't deliberate. When you release your work into the world, it belongs as much to the reader as it does to you. It's really a beautiful thing when you think about it -- one story can have so many different meanings depending on whose hands it falls into.

Nicole

III
02-19-2008, 07:17 PM
You're a talented storyteller and wordsmith and you work hard at your craft, Kev. Good results really shouldn't surprise you so much.

jst5150
02-19-2008, 07:25 PM
Kevin, it's fine to feel this way, but it's probably a sign of some anxiety or some other stuff you may have brewing. I've been here before. "There's no way they could be talking about with all that praise and I certainly can't do it over and over again." But I did. The track record shows it. And it probably does for you.

Don't be that hard on yourself. Reflect on the great things you've done, too. Don't cave to the emotion or get swept up in the idea. You know you've got the goods. Just keep rolling and finding new ways to grow them. Let failure be your classroom for change and let change be your conduit to continued success.

Example: About every five years, I change up my writing style. I just do. I figure, well, I've done it that once or twice, why do I need to do it again? And besides, I've always got that style in my pocket if I want it again. Do I fall on my face when I try new things? Yes. Does it sting a little? Yes. However, what I realize is that I've gone someplace new and that I have had the opportunity to try. And if I'm that tenacious about what I;m doing, I'll keep trying and learning until I get it right. And if I don't I don', and I move on to something else. Summary: let your failures be about growth and breadth of your personal brand. Do be stagnated by what others perceive or what you perceive as failure.

You're a good person, Kevin. Just remember there's always another off-ramp ahead -- even in Canada. :)

Potluck
02-19-2008, 07:26 PM
Don't let your logic get in the way of your subconscious writing.

Or how about this:

Don't let thinking get in the way of your writing.

I like that one better.

melaniehoo
02-20-2008, 03:18 AM
Yes! At the Inprint Series book reading I went to last night, though, something wonderful happened.

After an author named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sat down for a question/answer period, a member of the audience stood up and asked, "Were the sisters in your novel a metaphor for [yada, yada, yada]?"


She smiled and said, "No. They were just part of the story."


And then everyone laughed. She went on to note that she is constantly amazed at the amount of things people glean from her novels that weren't put there intentionally.

That's great. Thanks for sharing that. :)

JoNightshade
02-20-2008, 03:30 AM
KTC, just wanted to add here, it sounds like part of the anxiety you're experiencing is regarding the fact that these people are not reading the story you "meant" to write. You imbued the story/poem with a certain meaning that YOU wanted it to have, and here they are pulling out all this stuff you never intended.

It's scary, but it's also the beauty of literature and the human mind. Something you wrote from your own experience and knowledge can somehow expand and flower into something that applies in so many ways to so many different people.

Think of their interpretations of your work not as YOU -> THEM but as YOU + THEM. The act of reading and analyzing something creates something new. They're not so much saying "This is what is in this piece" as saying, "Here's what I discovered, that speaks to me, while I was reading this piece."

otterman
02-20-2008, 03:52 AM
I wonder how many times Bono or Paul Simon or John Lennon or (insert long list of great songwriters here) was told one of their lyrics meant something to a listener that the artist never consciously intended? My guess is many, many times. That didn't stop them from writing the next moving ballad or powerful turn of phrase in a way that meant something to them alone. It's part of being an artist to be interpreted in different ways by those who appreciate and personalize your work. Enjoy the feedback and understand that only good work welcomes such interpretation. You must have written a good story and that's what it's all about.

matdonna
02-20-2008, 03:56 AM
sometimes I feel like a fake when I am cruising around writers' boards like this instead of -actually- writing.....;-)

ExposingCorruption
02-20-2008, 12:15 PM
I don't see what the problem is.

When you are writing fiction, you have to feel like a liar and a fake because you are making it all up. None of it really happened; it's all fake. You're lying about everything. That's what makes it fiction. If you weren't lying and faking it, it would be non-fiction. :D

timewaster
02-20-2008, 12:27 PM
I always start my school visits by confessing to being a thief and a liar - an idea I stole from another writer ( thanks Sherry).Kids get it straight away.

roger
02-20-2008, 01:23 PM
I suffer from the Imposter Syndrome all the time. I have the constant feeling that I will get 'found out'. That people will discover... what, I'm not sure.

I live in a perpetual state of bracing myself for the collapse.

Writing fiction is a kind of confidence trick. Keeping up that monstrous egotistical confidence, when we are such shy, introverted, self-doubting, self-torturing creatures, is a terrible strain. There's a tension in the make-up of writers, I think.

Then again sometimes it's more like a conjuring trick. We create worlds out of our imaginations, but the imagination is a very fragile thing, a weightless thing. We know that it won't take much to shatter it.

timewaster
02-20-2008, 03:22 PM
Writing fiction is a kind of confidence trick. Keeping up that monstrous egotistical confidence, when we are such shy, introverted, self-doubting, self-torturing creatures, is a terrible strain. There's a tension in the make-up of writers, I think.


Um... speak for yourself. I'm all monstrous egotisitcal confidence I killed off the introverted, self doubting, self torturing self in early childhood : )

roger
02-20-2008, 03:42 PM
haha!

Yes, I was only speaking for myself - of course.

maestrowork
02-20-2008, 05:05 PM
Everyone knows I have a monstrous ego.

Please don't despise me... I'm very fragile.

Susan Breen
02-20-2008, 05:16 PM
One thing I'm realizing as people are actually starting to read my book is that you give up a certain amount of ownership of your work once it is out there. I thought of it as MY book, but once someone reads it, they reinterpret it and it becomes, OUR book. Which is a good thing, I think, but it is very disorienting. However, I don't think you can force people to read your writing in a certain way. On the bright side, it sounds like you had a very positive critique. Try to enjoy good news, whether you deserve it or not. :)

Robin Bayne
02-20-2008, 07:53 PM
What an interesting thread! I've experienced that "wondering" as well. Also, when I read something years later I sometimes wonder how on earth I wrote that.

willietheshakes
02-20-2008, 08:25 PM
Do you sometimes feel like a liar/fake?


Only when I'm awake.

dreamsofnever
02-21-2008, 12:46 PM
Yep, totally. But it's more that I feel like a liar/fake when I say I want to seriously get into writing and my husband tells me I can and honestly believes it. He believes it so much that he'll do anything to support me and then I feel like a liar because really, what do I know about writing? I know I can't live without it, and that once I start writing a story, it becomes all these things I never intended it to be.

But it sounds like you are writing intuitively and that's the best way to write. You can't write a story with intentions to put in an undercurrent here, or a nuance there. That's just going to come out looking forced. You just have to write the story that's inside you and it's amazing what comes out of that.

Relax. I think a lot of writers feel like this. It's hard to create a work of art and know what people will bring away from it or really, if it's any good.

KTC
02-21-2008, 03:22 PM
hehe. Another question... Ever start a thread and then forget about it?

I was having a meltdown when I posted this thread. To clarify...the critiquers got everything I wrote. It's just that they see the theme...all the underlying elements in the story that I didn't know were there. That's what freaked me out. Somebody answered that when this happens to them they think, "Hmm... I didn't know I was that smart" or something like that... I think it was Caro? That's kind of it... but it had the opposite effect on me... it made me feel stupid. I should know the meaning. I should plan to inject these themes, etc. I know that there are downfalls to writing without an outline of any kind, but still... you would think that the intangible parts of the story... you would think those would be things you would know are there before people have to point them out to you. Someone also said something about the way the reader interprets the story adds a new layer... Jo, I think. That makes sense too. Maybe a reader as dumb as me would only see the story I wrote? Anyway...thanks for all the replies. It's good to see I'm not alone... and thanks for the kind words too.


Kevin, who sometimes forgets some of the instances of his craziness.

pepperlandgirl
02-23-2008, 11:24 PM
I think Jeff Tweedy said it best when he said:

And if the whole world’s singing your songs
And all of your paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on

And that’s not wrong or right
But you can struggle with it all you like
You'll only get uptight

It doesn't matter what you did or didn't intend when you wrote it, it doesn't belong to you anymore once you've sent it out in the world.

KTC
02-23-2008, 11:56 PM
Pepper...I don't know where you have been??? But I'm damn glad you came back and posted that. Great wisdom to live by! Thanks.

inkkognito
02-24-2008, 12:24 AM
This happened to me early on, in a creative writing class taught by the most pretentious instructor ever to walk the earth. I wrote a story about a broken relationship, and she droned on and on over my insightful use of the phrase "Carried a candle for him" as so concisely conveyed the relative unimportance of her lingering attachment..blah...blah...blah

There I sat, thinking to myself, "Uh, but actually that was an error on my part. I meant to type 'carried a torch,' but it was stinkin' 2 a.m. when I finished it."

Think about your writing this way. In many ways it's like a funhouse mirror, but the sort that gives a different reflection to each person based on what is inside of them. You might have meant one thing, but the reflection they see may be much different.

pepperlandgirl
02-24-2008, 12:53 AM
Pepper...I don't know where you have been??? But I'm damn glad you came back and posted that. Great wisdom to live by! Thanks.

I've just been lurking without much to say. I've also been busy trying to survive grad school. Just gotta get through March and April.