Today, I wanted to talk about potential vision. It's something I suffer from. It involves me knowing that I have worked hard at writing for about nine years, and I've picked up the skills to write as well as anyone I can think of, at least some of the time. Okay, maybe not Shakespeare.
But, what I often need to remind myself is that, just because I know how good I am, A. this doesn't mean that I can convince others of my talent, and B. this doesn't actually mean I'm right.
This is where my potential vision becomes a problem.
Knowing how good you are doesn't mean that others will see how good you are. What does this mean for us? It means that if we put out a rough draft into the world, or any piece of writing that isn't our best, a reader/reviewer won't be impressed because they know where we are going to go with it. They'll be disappointed because they think this is all we can do. No matter how much we try to convince them that it's rough or that we aren't done yet, they will likely take our work at face value and respond accordingly.
"Your characters are too flat," they might say. What does this mean? It means that in your current draft, not in your imagination and not in your future plans, the characters might be flat. This doesn't mean you have to change your approach. In fact, it might be that if the reader had kept quiet until seeing the next draft, everything would have been fine.
The second problem is that knowing how good you are ignores the fact that it takes a lot of skill to go from your imagination to the final product. Even if you have the best idea, even if you have the best characters, the best language and best descriptions, none of this matters if you don't put the time and effort into getting this all down. This is a big problem for me because I often get bored once a project feels "finished" in my head. Sometimes, without even writing a story, I'm ready to move on to something more ambitious! It seems like I have to constantly rediscover for myself that the physical creation requires a completely different skill set...one that I'm particular weak at. And, it reminds me that if I read a book that I'm not impressed with, I shouldn't put the writer down until I physically create something that I deem is better.
What does this mean for me? First and foremost, it means that I shouldn't take critiques of my rough drafts too seriously. If I know it's rough, then I already know that things will change in ways that the reader can't imagine. It also makes me less likely to share anything until I feel like it's as good as I can make it. (There are exceptions to that, usually because I just have fun sharing work with my friends.) Second, it reminds me that I have to prove my potential to myself. Being brilliant in my head may be satisfying for awhile, but really it doesn't result in me making the books I want to make. To do that...I actually need to write.