Monday, March 8, 2010

Monkeys on my Shoulder

I have a bit of a dilemma.

Here I am, writing away at my thesis and I've got these two monkeys on my shoulders.  (Why monkeys?  Check out the Infinite Monkey Theorem.  It will make sense, really.)  One monkey goes by the name Prudence, the other Maverick.  They don't agree on anything, especially as regards my thesis.

Prue:  Write something safe.  Write something easy.  Write something where you know you'll succeed.

Mav:  Safe-schmafe.  Write whatever makes you happy.

Prue:  This isn't like workshop.  You have to hand it in For Real and your graduation depends on it.

Mav:  Who cares if what you hand in isn't great.  The important thing is that you learn something, right?

This argument continues ad infinitum.  The main point of contention always comes back to the issue of my POV characters.  Prue thinks I should choose one protagonist and write just that side of my story--at least then I'll finish something.  Mav says that the dual POV is more interesting, not to mention more fun.

The thing that really gets me, though, is that a lot of my readers (including my adviser) seem to be more in agreement with Prue and I'm siding with Mav. Which brings me to my dilemma:
If a writer decides not to follow a critique or piece of advice, is that hubris on the writer's part, or is that the writer being true to her vision?
On one hand, I don't want to be that writer.  You know the one--that's the writer who makes everyone read her stuff and give critiques, then completely ignores everything they say.  Or worse, it's the writer who makes a point of defending his work against every critique point the group makes.  All I know is, I've been on the "group" side of this equation and it stinks.  Not to mention that the folks advising me to take the safe road may be totally right.  They might see something I just can't see and I'd be committing thesis suicide if I don't listen.  (This last part is Prue whispering in my ear.)

On the other hand.  In my heart, I know I have a plan for this little book.  It's taken until this weekend for this plan to fully crystallize , but it has, and it now means writing the story according to my "artistic vision."  (Besides, as Mav puts it, this way's much more exciting.)  But it might also mean that I careen off the road altogether and end up in a ravine.

So, my question is:  Can anyone explain what the difference is between ego and artistic vision when rejecting a critique?  This is really important because I need to know which one I have.

Also, does anyone have any monkey repellent?


  1. Well, since I've spoken to you since you've posted this, I'm pretty sure you're going in the direction of two voices. :)

    I'm also rejecting at least one of my adviser's thoughts (that I pare down the number of Native American cultures in my story so the reader feels more grounded). But the thing is: I've seriously considered it. I've imagined what the book is with her suggestion. And I have a really good reason to reject the suggestion. But I also know that the issue (the reader's grounding) is important and I'm making doubly sure that they can figure out where the story is and what's going on.

    I think the difference between ego and artistic vision is the process by which you make the decision. Are you reasonable? Do you consider both the suggestion and the REASON for the suggestion seriously? Is there another way to address the reason that doesn't compromise your vision? And are you taking at least some suggestions? Or are you dismissing everything out of hand?

    Although I think the fact that you are even worried about it suggests it's not ego.


  2. Mike makes excellent points! I agree completely.

    I'd also add though, that maybe there is a paradigm shift that needs to happen: a single point of view is not necessarily always the "safe" choice. One POV could actually be a "riskier" choice.

    Safe or risky is ultimately irrelevant- the question is what POV is the best for the story you really want to tell. And only you can decide that :)