Don’t Beat Yourself up — Leave that to Others

DeadwoodInevitably in any writing workshop I’ve given, someone starts into the “OMG, I’ve done it wrong” stuff. This is where the writer starts with the self-flogging for still working on learning craft. I hate that kind of crap, so useless. So I’ll just say it now–knock it off.

Lord knows, been there, done that–but once you start publishing your work, you get this wonderful new option called “reviews” where others can now beat up your work for you, so you don’t have to do it. You can kick back and just write and leave the bashing to others. It’s a free service, even–you don’t have to ask for it or subscribe to it. It just happens. So does the other side of reviews, the ones where it’s all great and good. This means you can also leave that part of feeling too-wonderful and ego-filled to others as well. And you can just write.

Here’s the secret in all this–if you just keep writing, you have to get better at it. Really–you do. Now this is not to say you’ll ever be great–some of us start off with steeper learning curves than others. But it’s like anything else. Do it enough and you at least develop some habits you can lean on (and others you throw out), and if you like what you’re doing and you’re having fun, it’ll show up in the work. You get better.

And that’s the other part of this–it’s really hard to have fun when it’s all about bashing yourself and/or your work. And the two come together, I’ve noticed. Folks come out with the “I’s”– I messed up, I did that wrong, I…whatever. Instead of putting the blame where it belongs–on the work. As in, “Boy that’s an awful sentence. Wow, did that get mangled or what? There’s a tangled paragraph that needs a shampoo and a good conditioner.” It’s about the work–not you.

If you get stuff on the page, you can fix it. You can slap on new paint (better verbs), clean out the trash (edit), and before you know it you have something decent. And that’s the time to keep it about the writing. Keep the story going, hang out with your characters and let them have some fun, too. Again, it’s not with the “I’s” — I’m brilliant. I’m a fantastic writer. I saved that mess. Nope. It’s still about the work. “That’s a damn good sentence. Wow, that’s just the right phrase. There’s a paragraph that shines.”

If the focus is on the words–not the self. And, yes, it does help you stay sane as well as help you keep writing. So you can get better.

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Don’t Beat Yourself up — Leave that to Others — 3 Comments

  1. LOL! Love this philosophy. Now if only we could convince those reviewers it isn’t all about them either… “I hate short books.” “I hate too many adjectives.” “I hate stories with conflict.” It’s all about the work, folks! Let’s make that a theme.