Writing my way out of a big mistake

I fuc*ed up my novel rewrite big time.

I did what I often do when I’m insecure or uncertain: I abandoned my own instincts (abandon all hope, ye who enter here) and wrote what I thought my editor might want or what unknown and faceless readers might want or what that guy in grad school who hated everything I wrote might want.

I adopted a fake and breezy voice that was neither mine nor my main character’s, and I went with it, I rode that blazing false tone for almost three chapters. The longer I wrote, the more depressed I became, as if everything in my body and mind and being were communicating to stop, too just stop the whole friggin’, trying-to-please-people madness (“Stop the Insanity,” as Susan Powtr used to say, though she was talking about losing weight. But really, is losing pounds of bad writing any different?)

Cinthia, just stop the insanity right now, okay?


I finally stopped, three weeks later. Three. Damned. Stinking. Weeks.

My agents requested my novel rewrite in eight weeks. That was almost a month ago, and I’ve wasted almost half of that time jacking around trying to be someone I’m not. I temporarily ruined my book, ruined my characters and wrote pages and pages of embarrassingly bad and banal prose.

I can’t begin to explain how disappointed I am in myself.

I want to charge through my writing as easily as I charge up hills when I run. Shouldn’t it be just as graceful and exhilarating? Shouldn’t I feel just as powerful? Writing used to feel that way, and then it didn’t. I suppose it’s like love in that respect, the way you can promise to love someone forever (forever!) and then, a few months or years later, find yourself sitting across from him at the breakfast table, sure that you will die if you have to listen to him crunch cereal for one more moment.

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My writing is crunching cereal in my ear, and it’s loud, and it’s annoying me, and I want to lean over and say, “Just get out of here, okay. Get out! I don’t want you around. We’re finished.”

But just as I imagine doing this, just as I lean over the table, my bathrobe shifting ever-so-sexy against my skin, I notice something that I had overlooked: A perfect sentence. A shining metaphor. A description so unadorned and honest that I can feel it throb in my veins. I look over at my writing, all hunched over and marked up with editing notations and still crunching on that damned cereal, and I fall in love all over again. I ask it to stay, and later that night I creep down to my writing room, lay my hands all over it, feeling my way to the hot and sensitive places, the living places, and together, my writing and I, oh, we have ourselves quite the night.

3 thoughts on “Writing my way out of a big mistake

  1. Boy, you really nail the dysfunctional relationship we can have with our own work. And it always seems like when the pressure is on we have the toughest time of it.

    Is it crazy to want to take your writing to couples therapy?


  2. No writing is ever wasted, Cinthia. I worried when you first mentioned needing to do a rewrite (whose book is it, anyway). I’m sure your agent & editor have good intentions but …
    Sounds like it will be okay. At least you had a hot night 😉


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