Are you a fan of your own writing?
May 24, 2012
It’s a strange question , isn’t it?
We are taught from the earliest age that it is bad form for someone to blow his own horn, to exalt himself above his peers, to think too highly of his own accomplishments. As the book of Proverbs puts it:
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
In my experience, most writers err on the side of self-deprecation. They tend to be humble people who care for their colleagues in the profession and realize that we are all in this thing together.
Writers also tend to be their own worst critics. They believe the words they have committed to paper contain sufficient flaws to deem them unworthy of public consumption. This is why many writers never finish a book, or spend years editing and re-editing their prose ad nauseam. They are always searching for that one additional right word that will make a sentence sing.
In other words, writers can be their own worst enemies.
It’s not like they need more critics. Look at the reviews on Amazon for any book that has more than a handful of them, and you will almost always find some bad ones. Even books with ninety percent rave reviews draw their share of one or two star reviews.
Writers fret more over one bad review than they enjoy a dozen good ones. It’s in their genes. They want people to love and appreciate the books they slaved over for months, the books into which they poured their hearts and souls.
But everyone is entitled to his own opinion and freedom of speech is a two-edged sword.
In this dog eat dog world, I think a writer should learn to be a fan of his own work.
By this I don’t mean to say that a writer should be blind to his short-comings. I am a great proponent of craft in writing, of a disciplined approach that seeks to turn out the best possible product.
But writers cannot allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. At some point in the writing process, they have to be able to type “The End” and mean it. They have to be willing to give their books wings, to allow them to fly the coop.
And they have to be able to say, “This is as good as I can make it. So be it.”
There is no perfect novel. The concept is silly on its face. Anyone can pick out a sentence or paragraph and say that the book would have been better without them, or better if the author had used this word instead of that one.
So when I say a writer should be a fan of his own work, I mean that he must believe in what he has accomplished. He still can and will learn from his mistakes and evolve over time as he learns new techniques. But, if he expects other people to read what he has written, an author must believe he has produced something good, something fine, something to hold his head up about.
That’s not pride. It’s conviction.