I ran into a member of my writers group at lunch over the weekend. He was deep into reading a book on ancient history as research for what he writes. He was so engrossed in the book, I stopped by his table to ask if the book were good.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "It's so good, I wonder why I bother to write."
I've had those moments, and you have, too. You know it. You come across a line or a passage in a book, or you close a book upon completion, and your shake your head and murmur, "Why do I bother?" Somehow, those rare occasions weigh on your writing psyche more than all the common occurrences of reading something trite or mundane and knowing you can do better. Well, we know good writing when we see it, and, as writers, we have to stop and appreciate the good, even while acknowledging the bad.
When I'm in the process of editing or revising, I'll come across something I've written that's so good, I actually wonder if I wrote it. Of course I did, but it resonates with me the same way as a passage from Faulkner or King or Vonnegut or Atwood or some other famous author I admire.
Now, I'm not saying my words are gold because, believe me, I've come across some real stinkers in my own work--including a story that won the competition to be included in the college literary magazine. When I do, I cringe, but I immediately start to see how I can make it better.
Like any other organism or system in our bodies, our writing grows and evolves. In five more years I'll be a much improved writer than I am now--and I'm far improved over the writer I was ten or even five years ago. The only way to improve is to write--and write some more. And listen to the feedback without being defensive. That's hard, I know, but it's all part of that growth.
Even then, I'm sure I'll come across a passage in something by King or Vonnegut or Faulkner or Atwood, and I'll think to myself, "Why do I bother?" But it won't stop me.
Who's the author who makes you want to close the laptop forever?