THE BEST WRITERS ARE NEVER SATISFIED
QUESTION: At last week’s Oscars, an actor was asked about a book they were writing – and their response was that the book was a “masterpiece”. I’m a professional writer, how come I never feel as happy about my own work? - Alexander (Sydney).
ANSWER: I don’t think writers have much objectivity when it comes to their own writing. Most people who have written masterpieces believe their work could have done with another pass. They don’t think its completed, they think it’s abandoned. And they’re haunted by its faults for the rest of their lives. Kafka burned 90 percent of his work. Ian Fleming tried to get The Spy Who Loved Me removed from the shelves. Kurt Vonnegut graded all his novels and gave three of them a “D”.
Writing is a humbling profession where it’s almost impossible to lay a glove on those who came before you. George Orwell called it “a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon which one can neither resist nor understand.“
So… I think it’s great think that you’re looking at your work with a jaundiced eye. It gives you a better chance to catch the imperfections. And that’ll make you more competitive.
Ultimately, if you want to be happy, tell yourself you’ve written a masterpiece. If you want to write something of substance, give it another pass.