When I got my MS back from an excellent reader, I scanned the pages looking for red ink, exhilarated and terrified at the same time. I tingled when I saw positives like “Great imagery!” “Hah, that’s great” or “I like how you…” I cringed at the negatives, but it was more reflexive than anything. In truth, the negatives didn’t hurt that much because they were on target. There’s a lot you stop seeing when you’ve been living with a story for nearly a year. After reading through the comments, I felt good. The good comments made me feel good, and the ‘bad’ comments were either things I had suspected, or were things I realized my critter was pretty much right about. It was a very positive process.
And then the Doubting Writer surfaced.
There were a couple of big sections in the manuscript where there no comments at all. Rather than accept this as ‘no news is good news’, the Doubting Writer whispered in my ear, “Maybe they fell asleep reading this part”, and “Maybe it’s so bad they couldn’t bring themselves to make any comment at all on it.” That Doubting Writer can be a real bastard. So the Doubting Writer went to work. “I notice you didn’t say anything about this,” e-mails the Doubting Writer. “Did you think blah blah blah.” The Doubting Writer has an almost-pathological need to believe his book is awful.
BUT – before you rush to tell me that you’re sure I’m not that bad, rest assured this post is not really about how I did on my crit report. This is really about how we treat ourselves. And I want us all to treat ourselves a little bit better, at least for today, or this weekend.
As writers, we need to be self-critical. We need to be honest in our assessment of our writing, and we need to be able to look at critiques with enough logic and …stoicism, for lack of a better word, to see what’s on the money and what isn’t. That’s how we improve as writers. All too often, however, criticism feels like a negative, because it’s always couched in terms of what we could do better.
But a part of criticism is also acknowledging what we do well, and that’s what I want this to be about.
On Wednesday, Lisa L. Regan celebrated her 100th follower (Cheers, Lisa!). She asked her readers to post questions/suggest topics for future posts. Being an obnoxious sort, I asked her the following question, perhaps the writerly-version of one of the most-dreaded job interview questions out there:
What do you think is your greatest strength as a writer?
I suspect the real value of this question to a job interviewer is less in the answer itself and more in how the respondent handles it. But in this case, I’m asking because I want to be positive. There’s so much negativity associated with writing. We write. We let people read it so they can critique it (which, again, feels like it focuses on what we do wrong). We write it again, and again, and then we face rejections over and over. Yes, we need to learn from what we do wrong, but we also need to acknowledge what we do well, if only to keep us from trying to fix something that ain’t broke.
So take a moment. Or two or three, or however long you need. Think about something you do really well as a writer and tell me – tell everyone – what that is. Bask in it. Enjoy the glow. Don’t get a big head, but allow yourself a little time to say, “This is what I do well.” Put it in the comments here, or write a post on your own blog about it and link it in the comments. I won’t call this a blog hop, because I’m dropping this on you with no advance notice, and no fancy sign-up sheet, and no spiffy buttons. If you choose to do a blog post on it, pop the link in the comments here so we can all pop by. That’s it.
So, I guess I have to start, huh? Well, okay, here goes.
I am very good at descriptions.
Wow. That felt good. I’ll say it again. I’m very good at descriptions.
I hear this a lot. My wife has said it to me on a number of occasions. I hear it almost every week in the little writer’s group I’m in. I’ve even seen it from time-to-time in comments here, so that’s what I’ll go with. For today, I’ll pat myself on the back over my descriptive abilities and sit a little taller in my chair. I’ll keep the Doubting Writer at bay for one day.
So, there you have it. Celebrate your strength, enjoy your success, love yourself and your writing, even if it’s just for a moment. Later on, you can go back to picking at your words, grousing over stilted dialogue, clichéd characters and your propensity for purple prose (or an abundance of alliteration, for that matter). For now, tell us what you’re good at, be happy, and have a great weekend.