finishing your draft: the pessimist’s way

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On July 31st, I submitted a short story to FIYAH Magazine, a speculative fiction online magazine for black writers. I wrote a 13,000 word story about a woman whose ship crashes to Earth. She enlists the help of a local boy to help collect money for her shuttle repairs, and the story follows how they survive in the lowlife backstreets of Seoul, Korea, while avoiding a bounty hunter. It’s the kind of story that someone like me would write, honestly and truly. I spent many weeks on that project trying to perfectly craft every single sentence into a masterpiece. But when my editor asked me if I was relieved to finally be finished, I told him that I’d never be satisfied with my work. Why is that?

I don’t know if the story says what I want it to. I like to plan out themes before writing, but for me, narratives also unfurl as I continue to write and know my characters. I don’t want my writing to be didactic, but I also can’t imagine writing and not seeing what themes are running through my story. I think I need to keep writing in order to discover what’s really important to me and how that permeates my prose.

On a more fundamental level, I don’t think I’m a great writer. There’s a palpable confidence that runs through the text of your favorite authors in a way that’s difficult for me to describe. In reading short stories from FIYAH Magazine, I felt like the writers spent years perfecting their craft before daring to submit for publication. My feelings of inferiority may pass with time, as I’m sure every new writer’s does. But it takes a lot of energy to write a story and then have publishers turn it down. A couple years ago I submitted something to Clarkesworld, which didn’t fit what they were looking for. A rejection letter is proof that someone looked at my work; it can also prove I’ve got a long way to go.

So no, I won’t be satisfied with my work, not ever. But my editor, @fallettus, also told me that I’d improved a lot while writing this story. I’m relieved to know that this foray into writing has an upward trajectory. If I can’t be rid of my pessimism, I at least need to focus on constant self-improvement so that I can eventually achieve my dreams.