Got Anguish?

I just want to say something to all the writers out there who are terrified to let anyone see their work. I just visited a friend who is in this position, more or less, and it reminded me how life is for most writers out there, and how the life once was, for me. But the whole reason you’re terrified is because you are afraid people will think your work is bad, and then they’ll basically lose all respect for you, or make fun of you behind your back, or deeply understand your worst qualities, or whatever it is you’re afraid of. But the PREMISE upon which your anguish is based actually makes no sense. That premise being: my work is a reflection of me. That’s only true to a certain extent. Mostly, just like anything else in life, your work is a reflection of how well you’ve been educated in that particular art form.


Deeply immersed in your state of existential anguish, you assume that the quality of your writing reflects the quality of your creativity or insight. It doesn’t. Just like if you were trying to become a fisherman or a nuclear physicist, or anything in-between, you need to recieve an education in how that work is conducted. There are right ways to write things and wrong ways to write them. You have heard all the basic rules a million times: “show don’t tell,” “open with action” and etcetera. But learning to properly implement those pretty-basic-seeming rules takes practice and it takes education. You won’t get that education unless you have a professional, knowledgeable, experienced  editor look at your work and tell you what is right and what is wrong and how to fix it. EXACTLY LIKE YOU WOULD DO if you were learning ANYTYHING ELSE IN THE WORLD.

It seems like writing and art art the only professions where people suffer under the illusion that skill is somehow a reflection of your personal inner depth. And sure, to be honest, at a certain point, it is. If your novel espouses a philosophy that just doesn’t interest people, then, yeah, that’s a reflection of you. And if it does interest people, that, too, reflects upon you.  But until you get to the point where you know how to craft a plot, and write dialogue, and create a consistent, interesting voice, and develop characters, the other elements of your work (philosophical and etc.) don’t matter much, because no one will read very far into the book until you’ve mastered the basics of writing. And those basics are things that you can learn from professionals, just like every other skill in the world. So, writers, take heart! You don’t have to learn everything on your own, in a dark room, alone with a computer. And, in fact, you shouldn’t.

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