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As artists, us writers are often our own harshest critics. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can lead to a little dilemma that I’ve come to face more than a few times. Let me explain.

Have you ever written something (be it a book, a play, an article, or anything really) that you absolutely loved while you wrote it. You put a sentence down and you think that it’s possibly the best sentence you’ve written in years (or that it’s at least pretty good on the first try). You feel like this very often as you’re writing that project. You regularly feel like what you’re writing is at least pretty decent.

Then you finish and you read through it again.

Somehow everything that was once great is now utter horseshit. You don’t know what happened! It just did, and now you’re left feeling terrible and horrified about your work. Why is it so bad? You could have sworn it was good when you wrote it. When you show it to others and they absolutely love it. In fact, they call it your best. So it’s not the work that’s the problem, it’s you. You’re seeing it in such a terrible light for some unknown reason.

That reason, ladies and gentlemen, is the Artist’s Dilemma.

The Artist’s Dilemma is what we call it when you’re stuck in that loop of seeing your past work as terrible and your current work as excellent (despite others telling you how good your past stuff is). Why does this happen?

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Basically you grew as a writer. You are a better writer when you finished that project than when you started it. It’s a vicious cycle. You start something at a certain skill level and love it. By the time you finished it, you can’t stand it because you’ve attained a higher skill level.

It sucks, I know, but it’s not all bad.

It means you’re getting better. It means all your effort means something. And it serves as a reference point for you to see how far you’ve come. Besides, rather you compare yourself to the writer you were than other writers. That way you won’t have to deal with so much jealousy anyway.

Actually, I believe there’s a quote pretty similar to that:

“The only writer to whom you should compare yourself is the writer you were yesterday.” – David Schlosser

So next time you feel a bit blue because of the Artist’s Dilemma, just remember it’s a good thing. You’ve grown. You’ve gotten better. It’s not an indication of poor skill, but rather an indication of increased skill.

Have you ever experienced the Artist’s Dilemma?

Let me know in the comments!

 

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