Sunday, 1 September 2013

Don't Let Accusatory 'Advice' Put You Off, Editing Exists For A Reason

On Friday, having reached my unofficial word count target for the day, I was faffing around (yes that is a technical term) on Twitter when out of idle curiosity I clicked on one of the many 'advice for writers' tweets that crop up on my timeline.  I mean, it's always good to learn, right?

Except it wasn't advice, per se.  The general tone of it was more along the lines of "if you do this, then you are an appalling writer and should stop bothering everyone right now".

I looked at that post.  And then I looked at my WIP, which for a few different reasons--most notably that chunks of it were quite hard to write and sometimes writing anything is better than writing nothing--has a few examples of that post in it, and my first and overwhelming thought was: "so I'm wasting my time writing this shit.  I should never be allowed near a keyboard again."

I stared at the WIP that until then I'd actually enjoyed working on and was quite looking forward to writing two characters meeting for the first time, and I stared at it for a bit longer...  and then I closed it, watched most of an episode of Being Human (the one where Annie and George rescue Mitchell from the funeral parlour, if you're interested*) and went to bed feeling like I should spend the next day trying to find something else to do for a hobby.

Considering that I have the attention span of a mayfly I'd hoped, just a little, that when I woke up the next morning I'd have forgotten how I felt and could get on with writing.  Except that I couldn't.  I prodded the keys for a bit and thought, "stop wasting your time," and opened Chrome instead.  After all, I've done NaNoWriMo for ten years now and I've never finished any of those, so what's one more unfinished piece of shite that won't ever see the light of day?

While I was faffing (still a technical term) on Twitter I saw two tweets linking to blog posts come up in quick succession.  One was Clare Davidson's Writing Without Compromise which, although not directly relating to how I felt, is a fantastic post about how sticking to what you want to write is much better for your sanity than trying to write what you think someone else expects of you.  The other was one of Steve Poling's excellent advice posts (the one that caught my eye was about Cardboard Cutout characters), which mix in humour and anecdotes with their food for thought.  More importantly, his advice is never accusatory or makes you feel worthless; if anything, it inspires you to try new ideas or things you might not have thought of.

Something that crops up on my Twitter timeline now and again is the paraphrased quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent".  Stupidly, I gave that article consent and I suspect it'll probably be a while before I can look at my WIP and my plan and not feel the urge to cry.

Don't make the mistake I did.  Different approaches are for different people and if you find 'advice' that's more interested in making you feel bad than inspiring you to improve, ignore it.  Mentally tell the author exactly what you think of them.  Close the page.  Just don't give it permission to put you off.  Even if, like me, you write for fun not profit, because the characters in your head are restless and writing calms them down, and the finished result isn't ever likely to be seen by anyone...

Everyone can improve, yes, but there is a reason editing exists.  Write as badly as you want in your first draft, so long as you write--you can't improve on nonexistence.  And don't hurt yourself reading anything that rubbishes your work and takes away your enjoyment of writing for a smidge of advice.

You're worth a lot more than that.

* Favourite quote: "Who wants some of my chair?!" as said by George, brandishing one at a vampire.  Perhaps that's what I should've yelled at that post and just got on with writing, eh?

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