Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How bad you suck? (Momm)

Today's Monday on my mind is influenced by Nathan Bransford, literary agent and blogger extraordinaire. Yesterday he blogged about the Dunning-Kruger effect. In a nutshell, it states:

1. If you're bad at something, you'll think you're good.

2. If you're good at something, you'll think you aren't.

Let's think about this in the context of American idol. I haven't watched in a hot minute, but every audition season is the same. There's always at least one. They show you an interview with them before they go into the audition and they talk about how much they love to sing, how they've been in the church choir since they were 3 and how they are the next American Idol.

And then they sing.

And you think you'd rather listen to cats having sex while being lit on fire.

And after you finish cursing yourself for not having been born deaf, you wonder. How the heck did that person survive a minimum of 16 years of life without anyone telling them they couldn't sing?

But maybe someone did tell them, and they thought that person was just hating. Or maybe, everyone was trying not to hurt their feelings. Little did they know, they were creating a monster which would unleash itself on the whole world.

Ever so often, I come across writers like this, and I wonder how someone in their life hasn't told them how bad they are. And I think someone needs to stop them before they query an agent. Because heaven forbid, I query the same agent. And they're in a bad mood from wallowing through all the slush from writers like that. Someone needs to stop them, but it won't be me.

On the flipside of the coin, there's another type of person you always find in the auditions. The person who is the next Celine/Aretha/Sinatra/Vandross. They too have been in the church choir since they were 3. But unlike Mr and Miss Catfiresex, they don't think they're the best thing since Cherry Blossom KitKat (it's a Japan thing). So they take the stage and they open their mouth, and you're blown into the next century by their sheer awesomeness!

And then you wonder, how the hell did they not know? It's hard to imagine Aretha thinking she can't sing.

By the same token writer-friends, we doubt ourselves.

I think the Dunning-Kruger effect must be even worse as a writer, too. If you're writing a novel, it's months (at a minimum) before you generate a complete work. For all that time, you're either wallowing in the depths of the pitifulness of your work or your deluding yourself into grandeur.

I know I'm a decent writer, but I think I've got miles and miles to go. Yet, everyone I've shown work too has received it enthusiastically. I mean, there have been suggestions, but nothing major. Ever. Even when I sent a chapter to a Postgraduate Writing Program Director. She loved it! And I just wrote off her reaction as trying to sell me on the program.

I asked my latest critique partner to be brutal. She responded that she couldn't because she liked it. (She's only seen two chapters-plenty of time to change that opinion.)

When I add these things up, it makes me wonder...

Am I just a victim of Dunning-Kruger?

Might I



be remotely



Marsha Sigman said...

To that I say...YES! But we all have days(those of us who aren't delusional)where we think all of our work is crap. You have to push through that and keep going.

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ElbieNy25 said...

Cool, I was referenced in a blog. (I'm the latest critique partner btw) It was good, but you are right that it was only the first chapter. People's opinions are just that though...opinions. I really enjoyed this blog btw becuase it's true just how disallusioned people can be when it comes to their talents or lack their of.

sarahjayne smythe said...

Yes! I love this post. :)

Tawna Fenske said...

Excellent blog post (though I'm having trouble focusing as I crack up over the image of cats having sex while on fire)!

I tend to waver between thinking I rock and thinking I suck. However, thinking I rock does make it easier to deal with rejections, as I spend less time muttering, "I suck" and more time muttering, "no YOU suck, mister editor."

Love the blog!


annerallen said...

They say the best actors never get over stage fright. I think it's the same with writers-complacency=mediocrity.

Jon Paul said...

Claire--this one totally cracked me up and got me thinking too. Great work and thanks for sharing.

BTW, I included a link in my Friday Link Love post, cuz I liked it that much. Thanks for sharing.

Christi Goddard said...

"And you think you'd rather listen to cats having sex while being lit on fire."


Claire Dawn said...

Thanks everyone!