So I heard a term, and I’m sure I got the actual meaning wrong, but the meaning I gave it became meaningful to me, so…
A group of writer friends were talking novel “post-mortems”. The idea being after (or during!) writing a first draft, you note all the places stuff went wrong. Supposedly helping learn area that need improvement, and also to create notes for when things inevitably go wrong again.
I’m sure I’m missing some stuff, and perhaps adding in some leaps of faith. But the actual meaning isn’t what I want to talk about. While my friends were discussing various writing hang-ups, I was busy being astounded by the self-benevolence in the concept.
Like, instead of ragging on myself for not getting the story right on the first go, instead of declaring myself stupid, untalented, a total hack, instead of shitty self-talk, I can just take note of the problem, figure out ways to correct, and re-use that information later next time I am stuck on a piece of writing?
Without going full-on pity party, this sort of process has never been my process. I don’t necessary believe artists must suffer for their art, but I have been firmly convinced that I would suffer less if my stuff wasn’t, at times, so terrible. The idea that, hey it’s part of my process, I’m going screw up sometimes and these are ways I’ve got past it before… revelatory. In the best kind of way.
Not only is doing post-mortems good for the project; they’re good for my sense of writerly self. It’s an opportunity to stop negative self-talk, and put the issues into objectivity. A slow-moving plot isn’t because I suck at plotting. It’s because I need to work more at raising the stakes, and managing pace and considering ways sub plots affect the main. It’s work meant for the story, but I think, over the years, the concept will do some wonders on me as well.