In my experience, there are three kinds of writers: there are those who believe they are the reincarnated talent of whichever all-time-great they admire, whose first drafts are beyond reproach, the writers who, when presented with criticism, insist that you just ‘didn’t get it’; then there is the writer who is so crippled with a sense of inadequacy that they can never see the strength of their own work, are positively horrified at the prospect of letting others read their drafts (these are often the people who rewrite the fist chapter again and again and never move on to the second), who, rather than being inspired by a wonderful book, and burdened by facing a level of quality they fear they can never replicate; lastly, there are those in the middle—the writers who acknowledge they have room for improvement, but are able to acknowledge when they’ve written something decent, who see the faults in their work as opportunities for improvement rather than glaring proofs of their own limitations as writers.
(In an aside, the above sentence is 174 words long, which, after I’ve had a few glasses of wine (as in this moment) feels like something of an accomplishment. Generally, on the proceeding morning, this same kind of sentence feels like a revisionary necessity (I almost wrote ‘editorial’ here, but then remembered this means something different. Ok, Ok, back to my point.)
I aspire to be this last kind of writer, though, during low times, I am occasionally the middle kind of writer, and—on one occasion when I was spectacular intoxicated—I was the first kind. I wanted to write about these author-types (though I perhaps wanted to write about them with slightly more coherency) because I see more and more people behaving like the middle kind, I think out of an effort to appear humble.
“Really? You liked that bit? I was worried is might be a bit too [insert issue].”
“I’m glad you like my dialogue, but it’s the only thing I’m any good at.”
“Sorry, I know this isn’t very good. It needs a lot of work.”
“I’m terrible at pacing, so sorry if it reads badly.”
And plenty more. I’m guilty of this too, all the time. I sometimes think that my readers who write me such lovely reviews or send me heart-felt comments must be blind, because all I can see is what I would change. It’s such an easy hole to slip into, and with pessimism comes fear, and with fear, lack of production. Its a nasty cycle.
My point here is not that one should not acknowledge their own weaknesses as a writer and strive to improve, it’s that writers shouldn’t be so blind to their own potential. If you can’t see the value in your work, why on earth should anyone else? Know what you do well, writers! Aside from being a great morale boost, such self-awareness will help you to shape books with plots/characters/styles that play to your strengths.
It doesn’t make you an ego-maniac to say “this scene worked out really well,” or “my character development here is quite strong,” or even “I really like my book.”
You should like your book. That’s a good thing. Glass half-full, folks.Jan Piatkowski