Sometimes it’s really hard to like your writing.
I think that’s a moment we’ve all hit at one time or another, isn’t it? We stare at a page or even a chapter that we’ve just finished and it just . . . doesn’t work. Something about it is wrong, and maybe we couldn’t even tell someone else why it’s driving us crazy or what we don’t like about it.
We just hate it, and it’s all going to end up in the trash file while we try again.
It’s happened to me more than once, and if you’ve written any amount over the years, I’m guessing it’s happened to you at least once or twice. In some ways, it’s almost natural to be frustrated with our writing, because it’s never as vivid or enticing as the vision in our head. We want our stories to be so much more than words on a page, and when that’s all we can create . . . we get frustrated.
This is a pretty natural part of writing, but all too often, it becomes a negative trend that can be incredibly damaging. Instead of merely being frustrated with our writing, we start to become convinced that we hate it.
To my mind, this is a mistake.
You may not like your work all the time. No one does. But I am convinced that if you regularly criticize your own writing and talk about how much you hate it, you will seriously damage your chances of finishing projects and of creating a healthy career out of your writing. You can’t convince someone else to love your work by talking about how much you hate it.
So, here are my five practical reasons to love your work, even when you’re having a hard time liking it.
1) What we say directly impacts what we do.
Lately, I have been listening to teachings in the morning while I clean my house, make breakfast, and get myself ready for the day. One of the people I have been listening to regularly is Dr. Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist who travels all over the world teaching on the brain. One of the things that she teaches is that thoughts are real, tangible things and that what we think comes a physical part of our brain. So what we think becomes what we say, and—ultimately—what we do.
(Now, I am obviously not a neuroscientist, so if you want to check out her site and listen to some of her teachings, you can find her here.)
I found this teaching to be so fascinating, and it made me think about a lot of the things that we as writers say about our work—especially when we’re frustrated.
Things like: “I’m not good enough to (Fill in the blank).”
“I probably won’t get published.”
“I don’t really like my writing.”
“I give up.”
“I hate this book.”
Now, I’m not saying that if you’ve said those things in the past, you’ve doomed your writing. If you listen to Dr. Leaf’s teachings you’ll realize how much power we have to change our brain, both for the better or the worse. Still, maybe it’s time to take a step back and consider how what you think and what you say about your work is affecting you.
2) You are not stagnant.
Unless you are taking no risks in your writing and spending as little time on it as possible, you are actively learning. Everything you write, whether it is trashed or not—and whether you like it or not—is teaching you and helping you become a better writer. I would say that deserves a positive remark, wouldn’t you?
3) Hating your work changes your focus.
I’m going to bet that you didn’t start writing because you loved sentence structure. (Side note: I do happen to love sentence structure. But I didn’t when I started.) Most often, writers start writing because they have a story to tell, and because they loved the magic of creating worlds and characters from nothing but a little brain matter and a pencil and paper.
You may not have that story perfect just yet. The words you have on the page may not be just the way you want them. But don’t allow that frustration to dull the love you had for the magic of your story. Every job has frustrations, every craft has difficult moments. Move past those and remember that you’re doing this because you love it.
4) The world has enough critics.
There are so many people who are going to tell you that what you’re doing is crazy. That you’re just one more wannabe that’s going to fail. That fiction doesn’t mean anything, and we don’t need more writers in the world. (Um… what?)
You will have plenty of opposition to fight, dearest writer.
Don’t be part of it.
Champion your own work. Love what you do, embrace it, be excited and passionate and obsessive.
The world has enough lukewarm characters in it. We need people with passion, who love what they do and believe in it.
5) You are ALLOWED to love your writing.
It doesn’t make you stuck up. It doesn’t make you proud, or less of a writer. There is no rule that says you have to hate your writing and obsess over every typo and every mistake.
And if there was, we would break it. Because we’re writers, and we spend a lot of time learning how to break the writing rules when it suits us.
Seriously, though. Love your work. Embrace it. Be proud of it. YOU WROTE A THING! Do you know how many people would love to ‘find the time’ to do what you’ve done, and NEVER DO?
As imperfect as it is, it’s your masterpiece. So be proud of it. I give you full and complete permission, right now, if that’s what you need. Because you’ve worked hard and that’s worth celebrating.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.