Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Be A Writer.3

Drop the ego. Easy for me to say, what with my gigantic ego. Sometimes me and my ego don’t fit in the same room together, so I park it another room, but it still screams at me from a distance. I’m a paradox – I know I’m a crappy person and a middling writer, but I’m fairly convinced that I’m a good writer. It’s a difficult spot to be in. (See this post (coincidentally) by Betsy Lerner, who knows more about how writers think than I ever will - Betsy Lerner's Blog)

The truth is, no matter how much you write and no matter how good you are, some people just don’t care. You may think you’re the best writer you know, and maybe you are, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep telling people that.

The reason I know this so well is because I tried that method and no one cared.

Some writers think that they don’t need editors. I am not one of them. I need an editor. I love my editor. Don’t blame her for my blog posts though – I don’t have those edited. I just write and post. But if someone is going to write a book, someone really needs an editor, and someone may need gasp! Rewrites!

Editing and rewrites to make your writing better means putting aside the ego, just a bit, and asking for help. A different perspective is vital for, because we often can’t see the forest for the trees. (I hate clich├ęs.) We’re so used to seeing what we meant to be saying that when we look at what we’ve written that’s what we see, even if it didn’t quite come out as we intended.

For example, some of my phrasing and sentences might not be clear – from my perspective, they’re perfectly clear and make sense, but from the perspective of someone who wasn’t there (whether fiction or non-fiction), it may just be confusing. We can’t tell because we’re so familiar with what we’re trying to say that we don’t see it.

I’d go look for an example, if I had the energy.

Get used to the idea that you may have written something astoundingly beautiful and it’s going to be cut. Not that it will, necessarily, but it might. You might have a paragraph that just blows you away, but if it doesn’t fit with the rest of your work, if it obfuscates and goes off on a tangent that’s not relative to the story, it’ll have to go. This is really hard, because it’s yours.

This is when an editor comes in handy.

You can ask friends and family to read your work and that’s fine – but if they’re like most of my friends, they’ll say, “It’s great, love it,” and that’ll be it, which is nice, but not terribly helpful. I do have some friends who are great at pointing out things that are wrong, or need changing or clarifying, but often the people closest to us are the worst at editing.

Get used to having other people read your work and give feedback. We all love it when people to tell us how much they love our work, but feedback may be negative, and you have to be prepared to hear it. Not necessarily accept it – just because it’s negative doesn’t mean it’s right. But also get used to not receiving any feedback. Your fragile ego (and by “your,” I mean “my”) may be expecting a response for everything you do, but your (my) fragile ego needs to get over itself.

Most people who read something, online or offline or some other line, won’t respond at all. Ever. It’s nothing personal, usually, it’s just that everyone has their own stuff. Or there’s nothing to say. Or your piece doesn’t resonate with them. Or whatever. It doesn’t really matter why there’s no response, it only matters that you don’t take it personally, and that you realize most likely has nothing to do with you.

All you can do is write, and do what you will with it. Tell your ego to relax a bit – you may be the best thing since sliced bread, but so are a lot of other people. It’s a fabulous world with lots of great writers.

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