Creative Writing Tip: DO separate your self image and your potential from what you’ve written

1148655_vintage_fountain_pen_3We’ve finally arrived: the last of the series of “Creative Writing DO’s.” I saved today’s tip for last because it’s something I definitely need to work on. I’m more critical of myself than I should be, and I’m a master of negative self-talk. So if you have the same problem, you’re not alone! The tip?

DO maintain a balance between recognizing where your writing can improve and letting that knowledge discourage you or make you feel bad about yourself.

First of all, it’s not in any way a bad thing to be able to read-through your novel, which has tons of potential, and be able to see where it’s not good.

  • where the dialogue feels stilted.
  • where something is awkwardly worded.
  • where pacing is totally wrong.
  • where you repeat yourself a lot or use cliches too much
  • where information is lacking and as a result, a scene just doesn’t do what you intended it to do

It’s not only good to be able to see and admit these things, it’s vital. It’s completely necessary if you want to end up with a good book. No one I know who can write worth anything has ever claimed to have produced a really great, really readable, really engaging first draft. I certainly haven’t. It just doesn’t happen. Don’t expect you’ll be the exception. You won’t be.

I wrote earlier this week about distance: you need to distance yourself emotionally from your work to be able to honestly assess its quality and where it’s lacking. (Also, where it has too much stuff.) But distance is needed for another reason, to:

You have to distance your judgments of YOURSELF and of YOUR POTENTIAL from the judgments you’re making about what you have on the page. A draft with problems–even a third or fourth draft–doesn’t mean you can’t get that novel where you want it. And even if the problems are so deep-rooted that the book can’t get there without you rewriting half the novel…. You can rewrite that half. Or you can take the lessons you’ve learned and apply them to a different novel.

Remember, published or not, fan base or not, best-seller or not: if you write, you are a writer. Believe that.

As for judging yourself: Don’t give in to the temptation to consider yourself ridiculous, pathetic, or hopeless if a draft fails you. If you’re like me, you will always have that horrible, nasty voice in the back of your head screaming awful things at you: telling you you can’t write, you’re just wasting your time, that there’s no point. Well, there’s nothing absurd or crazy about having dreams and trying to achieve them. In fact, it’s the exact opposite that’s worthy of judgment.

I always try to remind myself that whether I write well or not, whether I ever publish another novel or get another good review, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. How I write has nothing to do with who I am as a person. On my value and dignity as a person. It has no effect in any way on my reaching out to help others, on my relationships of mutual support with my family and friends, on my faith. Writing is fun, and it’s important to me. But it’s important to keep the proper perspective on things. My authorial career takes a backseat to lots of other stuff that it can’t compete with. And that it shouldn’t compete with, to be honest.


14 responses to “Creative Writing Tip: DO separate your self image and your potential from what you’ve written

  1. I look at the enormity of my project and I’m overwhelmed. My glass is suddenly half empty. My self believe is strengthened by putting in more work. A very timely post – thank you!

  2. I agree that the timeliness of this post is helpful. I recently helped judge the first round of a writing contest and it made me reexamine my work to see where it was lacking. I was a little discouraged but your post gives me perspective.

    • I’m so glad the post was good for you to read! It’s so hard for me not to compare myself with other writers who are supremely talented…. Good luck to you! Keep plodding on 🙂

  3. The first draft is always horrible. If we beat ourselves up about iti then we’d never reach the second, third and so on. Good post.

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