Expectations

There is something to be said about the enthusiasm of others for things you are working on. For many years, I think I thrived on this enthusiasm. I think I lived and breathed it and let it fuel pretty much everything I was doing. For instance, if I started a new book, I simply couldn’t hold it inside. I had to tell someone about the idea because if I didn’t, there would be no fuel to keep that project going until the end. So, eventually, by the time I finished any novel, I had leaked the idea pretty much everywhere. People knew I was writing a book about a tone-deaf wannabe country music star, for instance. But I think all that enthusiasm can actually be a killer in the end. Because, while people may show excitement and interest and enthusiasm for a project, that only means their expectations and ideas of how it will turn out have time to grow and blossom and turn into something that will never, ever live up to what they imagined. So you lose in the end, I think, if you build something up too much.

To me, the perfect reading experience has always been one in which I pick up a book with little or no particular expectations beyond a general desire to read something engaging, and then find myself blown away by the story or the writing or both. I’m pretty sure that any book I have ever picked up (outside of classics, which have withstood the test of time) with high expectations has always proven a disappointment in one way or another. So, while I read a lot of books these days, I try not to talk too much about them with other people, especially ones on my to-read list. And, while I’m not writing at the moment, I have a feeling that when I do start writing again, it’s going to be a more private affair than it has ever been in the past. I’m not sure why this change has come about, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I’ve published enough writing to finally realize — deep down into my bones — that my writing will never 100% please anyone but myself. And that really is okay.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

6 comments

As a big fangirl I can say your books please me totally. *hugs* You are more talented and amazing than you realise.

Michelle D. Argyle

Your support means so much, Jess!

On Reddit recently someone was writing about the phenomenon where if you talk about doing something you get praised/rewarded for doing it and are less likely to actually want to do it when the time comes. Because, you’ve already felt the rewards for having done it (the social approval ones, anyway). This is also why making plans at night is the best thing ever. You feel all good for being hard-working, but separate from actually doing the work because it’s nighttime and you’ll have to start in the morning. When morning comes, well, where did all that motivation go?

For this reason, I think I’m going to tell everyone my New Year’s Resolutions at the end of the year, along with the assessment of why or why not I got them done. I’ll write them in an envelope or something so I don’t forget them.

I wish I hadn’t told anyone anything about my current book, even though I haven’t told people that much considering past projects. It just goes better, motivation-wise, if I let the excitement of sharing carry me through. When I wrote my first novel, and everyone knew everything about the plot, sometimes I think I changed things so they’d feel exciting and new again, not because it would improve the story.

Michelle D. Argyle

Oh, Jaimie, interesting thoughts! I think it’s important to make goals, yes, but are they really anybody’s business but our own? Perhaps after the fact, maybe.

I know what you mean. I sometimes regret telling people that I published a short story. The next thing I knew people were constantly asking if I was going to write anything else. I felt like I had to or I was letting people down. It shouldn’t be about that. Now, people know I’m working on a novel and I get people asking how it’s going or when they can read it. Some people even sound annoyed that they haven’t read it yet. I don’t know how to explain that work in progress is not supposed to be read except by someone who is going to give constructive criticism. I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure to get it done even from fellow writers.

Michelle D. Argyle

Rachel, yeah, it all starts that way. People do mean well, I think, but it can get really overwhelming.