A number of years ago my brother showed me this one quote. I can’t remember who said it or where it came from, but I never quite forgot the words. It was basically saying that an author only knows they made progress when they look back at what they wrote six months ago and sees how shit it is. Excuse the swear word, but I was trying to quote as closely as possible. At first I always found it quite funny, but once I took up writing more seriously I found that it couldn’t be closer to the truth if it whacked it with a baseball bat. But first, let’s backtrack a little bit.
I’m not someone who lets himself off easy. If you’ve read a few posts on this blog, you may know that I’m very self-critical, have a hunger to improve and don’t really give myself a break or a pat on the back. Often this gets me yelled at by family and friends, but it’s just the way I am. When I have a burning passion about something, which is writing and gaming for me, I always want to push myself to do better, and can’t sink into complacency. The trade-off of course is that I don’t stop to give myself a break. Now, you might say that that is somewhat hypocritical considering that I’ve previously, on this blog, encouraged people to enjoy the journey. But, I always enjoy the journey. I love what I do every single day, and I don’t stress about it. But, when it comes to myself and my ability, I can’t rest about that. I can say “I’m proud of that” regarding my first book, but I can’t say “I did a great job” or “it’s good”. I just don’t think I’m quite there yet.
That’s something I’m hoping to get closer to with my next book, The Black Glass Killer, which is a book I’m hoping will help me find my voice as a writer. But more on that one hopefully in the near future.
Coming back to what I’ve dubbed the ‘six months rule’ of writing progression, it’s been just about that amount of time since I went into a frenzy to write my first book The Sorrow to completion, and it’s been almost two months since I’ve published it, not counting the second edition I released. Hindsight is a beautiful thing of course, and now when I look back at The Sorrow, I see something I’m proud of, but don’t consider good. That’s not a self-defeatist attitude really, even if it does sound like one. It’s more a frank, no-nonsense assessment, and a belief that after everything I’ve learned in the past six months, I can do much better. I feel I can. And when I pitched these thoughts to my friends over at EGMR, one of them told me “that’s just growth, man.” I appreciated that, even though I do know it in the back of my mind.
I guess the point of this stream of thoughts is that you should be happy if you look back six months ago at what you did and think you can do better, and know you’re capable of more. It means you’ve made progress. And that’s what makes it a pretty great unspoken rule for me. It doesn’t mean what you’ve done in the past will always be bad, but it just means you’re getting better. Everyone has to start somewhere. Not everyone was amazing on their first attempt. If you go back and read Harry Potter for instance, the first book reads more like a children’s book, yet it becomes so much more than that later on in the series. It’s just one story among many, and I would happily call my first book a nice starting point. It’s a point I want to look back at in years time and say “I’ve come a long way.”
The truth is that it’s a bit of a tricky situation. If you’re always improving, you’ll always want to revisit what you wrote in the past and make it better. While that’s great, I do also believe that there must come a point where you want to get your work out there and see if it can fly. But at the end of the day, progress is progress, improvement is improvement, and getting better is exactly the place you want to be. It just needs a little bit of resolve, and lots of passion.