How to Deal With Bad Results

Image   I recently finished an article about abusers and victims. I’d taken it on assignment because I felt that my previous research on the subject would make it easy to write. I couldn’t have been more wrong: writing that article was like pulling teeth. And when it was done, the result was less than stellar.

The sentences were awkward and the rhythm choppy. Tangled thoughts struggled for light and air, while circumlocution blocked access. I’m going to have to rewrite the article, which means it’ll take the amount of time I’d planned several times over. Why, I wonder? To what are my hesitation and false starts due?

My first thought was that I’m perhaps less knowledgeable on the subject than I’d originally believed. Maybe the thinking and logic were confused because I was confused. But on reflection, I can confirm my understanding of the subject as I defined it in the introduction. The other possibility that occurred to me was that I was unsure of exactly what I wanted to convey. And this possibility won out.

Given skill and practice, writing comes easily when you have something to say and you know exactly what it is. When that’s the case, the prose spills out onto the page as though frustrated at not being there in the first place. Energy flows, pages fill, and all that’s left is a correction and editing job. I had that experience when writing about what it’s like to start a dog daycare business. My perspective on the experience had had years to mature, and I was dying to tell someone how incredibly much work, patience, and courage business start-ups require. Mostly I wanted readers to appreciate how I had persevered through dark times.

As egotistical as that sounds, for me the desire to be heard on an issue is the best motivator. In order to rewrite the abuse article I need to decide what needs to be said besides, “Abusers are bad guys with a huge repertoire of reasons why others are to blame for their bad behavior.” I need to sharpen my focus, perhaps on the specific behaviors that abusers use to shift blame. Recognizing those behaviors is what’s important because it can enable victims to look for a way out, or even avoid abusive relationships in the first place. If abused children are taught the specifics of abusive tactics, they’re more likely to talk to a trusted adult about their situation. At least one would hope so.

So for me, the factor that determines a good or bad writing day is the answer to the question, “Is there anything in me that wants to be said?” When the answer’s yes, I have a ticket to ride. If it’s no, then the only solution is more thinking and research about the subject.

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