Handling the Hate

I’ve long observed a natural pattern fall into place with each new writing project.

Writing session one passes in a haze of bedazzled excitement as the possibilities of the story at hand hand unfold in your imagination like a glorious summer bloom. Session two is usualy tinged by the belief that you aren’t quite getting down on the page what it is you had imagined. Half way through session three it hits you that this is nothing like the story you had in mind. Session four is like waking up from a dream where you were a multi-millionaire novelist to discover you are actualy only 2000 words into your magnum opus and its going to take much, much, much, much more work before its even ready to show to friends and family.

It’s in that gap between the wonders of your imagination and the reality of the words hitting the page that the Hate lives. Its the little voice in your head that keeps telling you your story is a huge steaming pile of pooh only fit to flushed down the loo. Its the growing belief that however much you work on a piece of writing it will never been finished, never be read and amount to nothing more than a huge waste of time and effort.

Getting any writing project finished is an exercise in dealing the Hate. Before you even start, accept the reality that at some point in the process the Hate will rear its demonic visage and try as hard as it can to undermine your confidence and self-belief.   Even if you manage to get the Hate to go away one day, you can be sure it will return the next. But don’t listen to the Hate, its a minfestation of your subconscious and hence nothing more than a dumb beastie.

Rules for Handling the Hate

1. The first draft is always pants. Hence its aptly applied title – THE…FIRST…DRAFT! It took me about three years to realise this. The Hate will tell you that because the first draft is pants that means you are also pants. Don’t listen to it. Get the first draft finished at all costs.

2. Like all imaginary beasties, the Hate can’t be defeated by full frontal assault. To deal with the Hate you need to disempower it. Whenever it makes a charge, say to yourself ‘No. My story is not pants. This feeling is just the Hate trying to get at me. I will ignore it and continue writing as though it had never happened.’

3. Tame the Hate and make it your servant. Hate is just Love manifested negatively. A little mental effort can turn that voice of doubt into a voice of certainty, telling you how great everthing you write is. Be warned however, that while the Love beatsie can be useful, its no less a beastie than the Hate. Its OK to think what you are writing is fantastic, right up until you need to start editing. At that point you need to track down the ‘Reality Check’ beastie, who’s job it is to tell you the way things really are.

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Director of creative writing at UoL, published with OUP and Cambridge. Currently travelling the world and writing a book.

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