What writers really mean when we say we "love" something we wrote

About a month ago, I attended a writer's retreat with some of my coworkers. When it came time for workshop, I said that I'd been playing with this story off and on for a few years, sent it out a few times, and nothing happened. I wanted to figure out how to fix it because--and then I stopped short. I don't remember how I finished that sentence. I probably said something like, "I think it's interesting," but what I actually wanted to say was, "I really love it." But that's just... I mean, how do you say you love something you made? It sounds so braggy.


"Oh, my own genius overwhelms me!"

"My prose is the shit, honestly."

"Really, nothing moves me as much as my own writing. It's just really, really good."


No. That's not what I mean when I say I love a story I'm writing, and it's not what I meant with that workshop piece, either.  Remember, it needs help-- yet, I do love it. It's about a girl who was kidnapped by her babysitter as a kid, and now as a teenager, she's essentially stalking the kidnapper's husband. I never get sick of returning to this story, reading it again, tweaking it. It draws me in every time. 


I'm currently in love with another story I'm writing that's in really horrible shape. This one follows a dysfunctional family years after the murder of their aunt, and I'm not kidding, it was inspired by Dance Moms. (Should I have admitted that?) It's like, forty pages long. It has sub-headings because I don't know how to break it up. There are pages and pages of side detail-- how the husband dressed in the 80's, how the mom used to be a hand model. There's no real plot. The definition of a hot mess. I would write it all day if I could.


These are the stories that I love. Why?


Writing for me goes like this: you get a thread of an idea from somewhere, you follow it, and then after a certain point, you've lost a great deal of control. You're watching a movie, walking around with the characters, breathing in their bodies, hearing all their thoughts, and your job is to fit all of that into prose. It's very, very, difficult. Usually, my prose falls short, and I'm rewriting and restructuring forever. When I say I love a story I'm writing, it's not necessarily because I think it's executed well. It's because I love being in that place. I love walking through those strange lives instead of my own. I love trying to figure those characters out, and I love the ways they surprise me. I think we've all experienced that thing where you're in the flow and suddenly, a character does or says something that you didn't expect, or maybe an entire scene becomes something that you didn't expect (that's my favorite).


I think because art comes from the creator, there's this idea that every single move is a personal reflection and a deliberate act. Real creating, in my opinion, is the exact opposite. You don't know what this thing wants, and you're just the vessel. So for writers, saying they love or hate a story is just a natural part of the whole process, because  how can you not have a feeling about a thing that's it's own thing? I mean, it's not narcissistic when a parent says they love their child, right? (Sorry to compare parenthood to writing. I know you're rolling your eyes at me, but right?)


When we're in love with our stories, that's the best we could ever hope for, because those are the stories that will be cared for and finished and keep us excited about this non-lucrative and non-practical endeavor that is creative writing. So fellow writers, you can go ahead and tell me you love something you're writing. I'll know exactly what you mean. 


How do you talk about your creations that you love, and what are they?

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