Monday, September 6, 2010

The Sucking Song

My left brain was thinking
(I wish I'd been drinking)
About all my novel-ish stuff.
It woke me this morning
(I should be in mourning!)
To tell me I'd written enough.

No, I wasn't done yet
But still my right mind-set
Was raring to go (so to speak)
It was getting dramatic
Climactic, fantastic
Exciting, the plot at its peak.

But left brain ain't swayed
By the twists that I'd made
It said, in a phrase, "This stuff sucks."
I asked it, "Which part?"
--Oh, the pain in my heart!--
And it said, with a sigh, "Here's the crux:

"The plot is pathetic
The tone apoplectic
Dude, haven't you witnessed the signs?
The prose is too wordy
And Thomas too nerdy
He passes out, like, eighteen times!

"Why don't you step back
Paint a bit, have a snack
Decide where you want this to go.
It'll wait for you here
I'll whisper in your ear
And you'll find your way soon, this I know."

My left brain had won
The damage was done
But I couldn't regret what I'd heard
I know with each letter
The prose will get better
And soon, I will have the last word.

Anyone feeling like your stuff sucks lately? Join the club! It's a bad, bad feeling, but it's also necessary. If you never get to the point where you think your stuff stinks, you can't fix it. Relish in your own suckiness, embrace it--and then fix it.

That's what I'm going to do (after a bit of painting and a snack). Happy writing!


  1. I think the whole novel I'm writing pretty much sucks. I'm waiting to get to the end before I go back and try to revise the suckiness, lol.

  2. I don't know if it's required, but I've never known a writer who hasn't felt that way.

    Thing is, even if the work ISN'T crappy you can feel it sucks. It's important to get perspective and writers can have it both ways. We've all been flying through something thinking, "Damn, this is the best stuff EVER." and we've all read through our own stuff and thought, "How did I write this garbage?" Let's face it, both reactions are probably off.

    They key is, if you once liked it and now think it's parrot fodder, give it some distance, then come back. Same advice if you thought it was PERFECT. There was always something there that pulled you. Find it and keep pulling when you can trust yourself to see it for what it is.

    In my humble opinion.

    This is my favorite poem of yours I've read, too. God, I'm such a slave to rhyme/rhythm. Perhaps I need a 12 step program.

  3. What if you can't fix it? then what do you do? get help?

    But life does go on...

    Love the "sucking song" it felt right, kind-of got in a groove there.

  4. Every piece of shit I write sucks. But then shit makes the compost better. Sooner or later something good will grow in that damn garden.

  5. "The plot is pathetic
    The tone apoplectic
    Dude, haven't you witnessed the signs?
    The prose is too wordy
    And Thomas too nerdy
    He passes out, like, eighteen times!

    Brilliant lines!

    I don't think you ever know if it's quite right. You just have to throw it out and keep your fingers irrationally crossed.

  6. Barbara: I'll read your sucky novel, if you read mine! I would power through mine--and I still might--but my changes will have to be substantial. I'm talking a complete POV overhaul.

    Stephanie: I don't think there's a 12-step program. Perhaps you should start one? However, there is a difference for me between reading something and just saying, "Wow, that sucks," and having inklings of discomfort as I read... followed by a night where my brain actually works out specifically what is wrong with the work. For me, sleep has always brought clarity, and I woke with an undeniable understanding that what I had written was narratively pathetic... and if I wanted to tell Thomas's story, I'd have to do so in a completely different way so as to not take myself too seriously. Otherwise the book would end up in the religious melodrama category, and that only appeals to a small group of apostolic Christians. I may still finish the plot, but I know this will be an entire rewrite. Since I'm already nearly 200 pages in, that means I have a lot of work still to do.

    Jeff: If I can't fix it, I just add the word "yet" to the end of that, and sit on it. Lord knows I have plays waiting on me that I'm just not good enough to write yet. But I'll get there. I just have to be patient.

    Walking Man: I'm with you. I've got a mound of compost on this computer alone, never mind the reams of paper rotting in my file cabinet from failed stories and poems. But the rotting does grow stuff, and I can't fault the process. Without the compost, what deserves to grow would wilt and die.

    The Mother: I cannot tell you how rarely I come across the word "brilliant" describing my own writing. *sob* So appreciated! I will irrationally cross my fingers (whenever I'm not typing madly).

  7. Great poem! I have had those feelings too recently, but I write pbs not novels. In my case I just need to get past the need for immediate gratification; recognise when people are being polite with their critiques and change things up a little. Never throw away your old stuff btw. It is years since I stopped after 7 chapters of my second novel. The first novel is very messy, but such a good idea, I will get back to it one day. The second I didn't really think would come to much, but in one of my insomniac nights recently, I couldn't sleep for fear of these two men in the last scene that I wrote. That is a clear sign to me that it is a book that needs to be written. I agree with the compost comment, don't toss the writing crud out on bin day.