16 October 2013

ten reasons your writing doesn’t suck (as much as you think it does)

10 Reasons Your Writing Doesn't Suck
Today is for those of you who are stuck in the “I don’t have anything worth sharing” pit of the submission process. Affectionately dubbed the ID HAWS (or the “Id House”)*, this is the point in your writing career in which you start operating based on the "pleasure principle." We’re not exactly talking about the Freudian pleasure principle, but it’s a related concept: we seek to avoid pain (i.e. rejection) and would rather dwell in the realm of self-pleasure (the writing is “good enough for me”) than face the risk of the realm of external influence (the writing “may not be good enough for them”). As writers our instinct is to both take pleasure in writing … and avoid pain because of our writing. So instead of letting anyone else (read: editors) hurt us, we convince ourselves our writing “isn’t good enough” for anybody else (but ourselves). This post is simply a look at why you can’t use “it’s not good enough for anyone but me” as an excuse anymore … or, the

"Ten Reasons Your Writing Doesn't Suck (As Much As You [Let Yourself] Think It Does)"

1. your inner editor is a rebellious jerk
Sometimes it’s not that the writing is bad … it’s just that your inner editor won’t shut up. You’ve got in front of you a beautiful, prolific piece of writing, but for some reason that little voice keeps screaming for changes. At some point you need to tell the inner critic to shut up, and move on. If you edit forever, eventually you’ll wind up with … nothing.

2. itsucksitis is a viral infection
It just doesn’t quit. You may just be telling yourself your work isn’t ready for so long that you can’t let the medicine of realizing it’s not bad do its work. It’s just like when you’re sick, and you tell yourself, “I’m too sick to go to the bathroom and grab the medicine that will make me better.” The longer you lay there in your sick, the longer you’ll stay there in your sick. It’s time to get up and go to the medicine cabinet.

3. your friends aren’t that nice
This doesn’t mean “Your friends are terrible people.” This simply means: the people you’ve allowed to read your work aren’t sugar coating the truth about your writing. When they say, “I love this,” they usually mean “I love this.” Choose good critics, and trust their praise. Stop convincing yourself they’re “just saying that to be nice.” Writers, generally, could give two rats’ tails about being “nice” to each other.

4. you know what bad looks like
You’ve seen atrocious writing, and you’d never imitate it. That, almost by default, means your writing can’t be that bad … or at least not as bad as you think. And on a related note …

5. [insert famous author’s name here] is terrible, and yet [insert famous author's name here] is famous
Remember when you heard about [Author]’s book? Remember when [Author]’s book was number one on the bestseller list, so you thought you’d probably better read it? Remember when you picked up your copy and got through ten pages before realizing it was dribble? The fact of the matter is, some of the top writers out there aren’t the best writers out there. It’s not that their writing is bad; it’s just not great. Which means you need to stop trying to convince yourself you need to be “great” to be “good,” or that if you’re not “great” you’re automatically “the worst thing ever since spoiled sliced bread.”

6. you wrote that thing that one time that you burned in that sink
Speaking of remembering … remember that piece of garbage you wrote when you were twelve and thought you were so profound? Remember when you found it a few, or many, years later, and in absolute shame burned it or tore it up or fed it to the dog or your baby brother? As long as you’re not writing like that anymore ... you’re improving as a writer.

7. refrigerator art
If we could all go back and recall all the horrors we created that our parents still stuck to the fridge like Mona Lisa replicas, we’d be much happier as writers and artists. Personal story: My dad still has pictures I drew when I was maybe five and was convinced that you needed to draw someone’s backside on the back of a profile picture. My third grade teacher recently sent me some poems I wrote that she’d kept. I look back at those things and my smile of reminiscence is mingled with a grimace of horror. But guess what? All those things are worth something to somebody. And if that junk is, so is the not-junk you’re writing now that you actually know what you’re doing. Somewhere, your work will be someone’s refrigerator art.

8. you have writer friends
Writers are snobs. We like to hang out with people whose work we think has merit. So guess what? That writer pal you hang out with? She thinks your work has merit. That guy who’s always griping about how disgusted he is with so-and-so’s writing? He’s talking to you—and he thinks your work has merit. Trust your snobby friends. (And if you doubt your snobby writer friends, recall number three on this list.)

9. your pink slips don’t define you
Rejection slips don’t define how great or terrible your writing is. So stop relying on them to tell you whether your writing has merit. Think of rejections not as pink slips received for job negligence or incompetence. Think of them as pink slips received during an economic decline. You’re good at what you do, really … sometimes the world just stinks and can’t make room for your awesomeness. Move on to the next place that can make room.

10. you’re a writer
That’s right. You’re a writer. It’s in your blood. It didn’t get in there by accident. You have something to say that’s worth sharing. So stop clamming up and start climbing up: kick off your silence shoes and start putting yourself out there. It’s a long, hard climb to find someone who appreciates what you have to say, but you’re a writer. Your blood is thick with words, and your skin is thick with a thousand pages. Start wearing the title as a badge of honor, not a pit of despair. Remember: you’re a writer. Your words have power. The world needs it. Stop hogging it because you’re afraid of what will happen when you let your power loose. Unleash.

Happy Writing, Worthy Writer!

* Okay, I admit it … I may be the only one to call it this. But I think you should start. Let’s create a new writer lexicon!


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  1. "...sometimes the world just stinks and can’t make room for your awesomeness" and "you’re a writer. Your blood is thick with words, and your skin is thick with a thousand pages," are my new mantras. Thanks for the kick in the rear.

  2. You had me cracking up by #4. Not only have you brought me out of the grumpies, but you've given me hope for my future as a writer. LOL! :-)

    1. Hooray! Thank you ... and happy post-grumpies :)


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