It might not surprise a lot of people, but pride is counted among the greatest assets an artist, a creator, can possess. It can also be our greatest liability. Let me explain. Firstly, pride in our work motivates us to continue building it until completion. On the other hand, it can also prohibit us from looking at it with another perspective. Art lies in the eye of the beholder, but that phrase has led many, including myself, into a situation where we are blind to the flaws, accepting mediocrity by saying “others will understand,” or “it’s good enough.”
I learned from experience it’s never good enough.
A captain’s pride can sink his ship—that’s the saying I would use. We as human beings are flawed creatures, prone to mistakes; sometimes, failing to see the errors in the margins and correct them before they become a growing, critical problem.
Here is my advice—never let pride keep from teaching yourself the most important lessons. For me, that proved the hardest aspect of my failures to accept. I was young—tempted by the promise of the “instant success” of those who achieved glory right away. It was a mistake to think I could do the same. A fantasy as brilliant and captivating as the one I’d written, leading me here, to write this now.
Pride in my work eventually led me to losing faith in my work for a brief moment in my life. What I mean is this—for years, I’d been hyped up on this fantasy that was so easy fall into, thinking “once I get it written, once it gets edited and published, everything will turn out swell.” That the hard part was creating this world I talked about in my previous article. Nothing could have been further from the truth. That pride led me to thinking my work was great despite its flaws, lying to myself in concluding that people would accept it because the story was great having spent 10 years of my life building it out.
I didn’t want those years wasted.
Through 10 long years of writing “The Blood of Hell’s Vengeance,” as I originally called the series, I devoted a substantial extent of time creating this nuance web that coveted the story, each aspect playing out as the series continued. I planned for 9 major books to be included in that series, along with 200 short stories—every one of them outlined, with characters developed, maps drawn, languages and cultures filled out to bring out this sense of realism. I had spent so much energy building this world, however—I rushed through the final development process of the first novel, “Tale of Galron and Cyridel.”
The problem with the writing wasn’t due to it being bad (for the most part). It was… poetic, with each sentence flowing together in artistic and beautiful ways. I made it to roll off the tongue like a song—with a rhythm and tempo, unlike any other novel you will find on the shelves, today. And here’s the reason for that. Majority of people cannot read something so complex. I could because… well, I created it. I developed my reading and writing skills for the development of my stories, but I never learned how to correct errors as well as I do now. The poetic writing that existed in my first book was done in a passive voice, telling instead of showing—describing whole not allowing the experience to come naturally. I admit, at the time, I didn’t understand the argument. Pride for the work I did up to that point felt intoxicating. I’d been on a creative high for so many years, how could it be wrong?
During the editing process, I corrected errors as I spotted them as you do. One bit that used to confuse me, though, was that no matter how many times I went over a passage in the script, marking it off as complete—whenever I went back, I discovered a glaring issue that would cause the entire sentence or paragraph needing a rewrite. The problem was less of a language issue than one dealing with my impatience to get it done. That needed to have been my first clue to what was happening with my life’s work. If the voice I landed on was so complex, the writing so abstract, that I missed issues that each of my English teachers would have gladly ensnared me on, then why didn’t I change it?
At the time, I didn’t much think of it as a problem. I thought, “Oh, silly—I missed another one.” That proved the center of my thought process on the matter. I tricked myself into believing that as I read through each passage, one at a time, that I’d catch everything I missed during previous read-throughs.
For 10 years, I made incredible changes to my first independently-published novel. After my first draft, I cut entire sections I once thought as vital—I trimmed down the poetic language, so the manuscript would be easier to read, if only just. I had thought those moments a challenge to my pride, but I mistakenly became proud of myself for overcoming my… ego. As counter-intuitive as that statement may seem, understand—I thought what I had was something special. I knew it was going to be hard work to get it done, spending many long hours into the night to make sure it did. But it never really struck me until after how I should have done things better.
This world I built was a part of me—my life and history. What happened to me happened to it, in turn. It was my child and I was the nurturing father, but in my raising it to adulthood, I did not realize until too late that I had been an overbearing and overprotective parent.
In my previous article, I talked about how to build worlds and the need to let them to change through development… how a narrower point of view could show itself as something more powerful than a thousand years of history. I taught it how to live but floundered in showing it how to survive on its own. I became overly reliant on the belief that a good story alone would pave the way forward, let it be recognized.
The hardest lesson in life is accepting that sometimes we must swallow our pride to flourish.
After the lack of response for “Galron and Cyridel” resulted in me giving out more free copies than I sold, trying to get people to read it and tell me what they thought, good or bad, I admit to falling into the deepest depression of my life since childhood. Those who I’d given the books never read them, least of all, tell me what they thought. Many folks who promised they would buy a copy never did, and then lied about it to protect my already rampant emotions, forgetting I could see the sales numbers on a whim and know it never correlated. That made what came next even worse—that feeling of betrayal, of worthlessness. I spent 10 years of my life creating what I felt at the time to be wonderful, and yet, not even the people loved most could be asked to read it?
During this depression, I wrote another book called “The House On Einsam Street.” I don’t know where it came from. I woke up from a nightmare one evening and started writing the first chapter, turning out a couple pages. I had no outline, no structure of where I wanted to take this story… so at my lowest, when the pride in my work had completely faded; I created a piece that I felt became superior to the tome I spent 10 years trying to perfect. And it only took me a month.
I released Einsam Street as another independent publication. While my sales were as lackluster as my first attempt, I went in expecting the same result, saving myself a lot of heartache and allowing my emotions to begin to heal.
As the year went by, I started to re-evaluate everything concerning my work. I had changed the series name from “The Blood of Hell’s Vengeance” to “A Tale Beyond Return,” although it was a change made too late to fix first impressions. I followed that by meticulously going through the manuscript of that first book with my sister acting as an editor and guide to attempt a chance at redemption. At this point, I no longer cared if anyone read the book. I just wanted to fix everything that caused my sullied nature.
A thought came to mind—a funny twist of fate that I felt certain the cause. What if the reason behind no one reading my work was because it wasn’t worthy of being read?
With that in mind, Samantha and I went about going through the chapters, line by line. We adhered to a promise. She would try to convince me to do a passage differently or think of other ways to put it together, I would then argue the way I did it before was superior and didn’t want to change it, eventually coming to terms and accepting the change (for the most part). I divided the book into parts, cutting it around the two-thirds mark, right after the major battle that would kick off the journey for the rest of the series. The first part would retain its original title, under the new series name of “A Tale Beyond Return,” while the other would be labeled “From A Road Ahead.” What happened is that I slimmed an enormous 650-page book to more manageable 400 pages, which saved a good few months off editing work as we only needed to focus on the trimmed first portion and not the daunting whole, keeping to our schedule.
I intended to continue the series as I had planned it, updated to reflect the newfound course I’ve started to undertake to improve the writing and readability of the story. Nine books became ten—I would re-write the majority of “From A Road Ahead” so it fell in better with my adapted writing style from Einsam Street (a cleaner and modern voice, not as poetic or artistic). As I worked with my pride abash, I felt a shift in the way I saw things I hadn’t before. With the help of my sister, I realized a lot of the flaws existed purely in the style I had used for Galron and Cyridel. I took notes and proceeded to correct as many as I could for the re-release of the volume, accepting that trying to fix them all without a complete re-working of the book would be impossible. Doing anything other would have been the worst possible decision to make—for the sake of myself and what little trace of sanity I had left.
I didn’t want to spend the whole rest of my life writing the same story unendingly as my concepts grew and became more focused, offering a greater level of opportunity than what a complex fantasy alone could do.
I needed to expand beyond everything I had done to that point. Take my hard-learned lessons and move on.
So, I swallowed my pride and corrected the work as it existed. When we finished, I re-published it as a second edition. I was happy with how it turned out, although I knew it still wasn’t perfect, but I accepted that fact. My plan for the immediate time after was set to finish “From A Road Ahead,” though as of writing this, I have yet to get around to doing that. Instead, I moved onto something new and exciting while re-organizing my thoughts for the series.
It took a lot to overcome my stubbornness and pride. When I did, I noticed mistakes I failed to before. But it was also pride that kept me going—a determination to remake my work into something better than what I allowed to develop. I smothered it with love until it grasped for breath.
Next, I will be talking about my thoughts on building cultures as they exist in a world. Life is filled with limitless possibilities, but inspiration comes from somewhere. Dreams alone can set in motion events to unfold in a specific pattern, but the distinction between morality and what’s “normal” is defined my implications outside of our control, but well within our realm of society to decide upon.