Have you ever written something and when you went back to read it you thought, “What the hell happened?”
One day last week I thought I was writing magic. The words flowed beautifully. I thought I wrote almost-poetic prose, I loved it so much. It seemed everything jelled nicely. I was SO proud of myself. That night I patted myself on the back for a job well done.
Good writer, good writer.
When I went back to re-read the few chapters I’d written, still in awe of myself and my ability, I sat back and opened the computer. I was so excited to read the creative prose I put on the screen. Then it happened. I read it.
I sat in horror. “What the hell was I thinking? This sucks!”
It was a huge shot to the ego. Which I probably needed at the time.
I’m telling you this story because the worst thing a writer can do is to think they’re above it all, or think they know everything about the craft. A humble writer is a happy writer. And a writer others will want to work with, too. I’m not saying I didn’t think my sh-t didn’t stink, but I was pretty proud of my achievement. Too proud!
There’s nothing wrong with being proud of yourself. I believe you should be your loudest cheerleader. However, don’t ever believe you are better than someone else. Nothing is uglier.
I’ve read agents’ websites where they said to “toot your own horn. Honk it loud, and they’ll tone it down later if need be.” This made me very uncomfortable. I’m just not comfortable bragging about anything, especially an area I haven’t mastered yet. And honestly, I don’t think many authors can say they’ve “mastered” the craft. They can be prolific writers and produce x-amount of books per year. They can even make the best sellers list. But isn’t there always more to learn? Isn’t there always someone that’s further along than you?
I’m writing this post because sometimes people can get the wrong impression of you when all you’re trying to do is help others. This very thing happened to me. I read a post on Google+ where a writer asked for critique on a couple of sentences. She wanted to know if it read as though the protagonist was heading straight for the door, his eyes locked on his destination.
BUT, it was the way she posed the question she wanted answered. “Does this sound like my protagonist is crossing the dance floor, heading for the exit, not looking over his shoulder?
I, of course, tried to help. But I didn’t see the word “NOT” in the question. I hadn’t slept well the night before and the sentence made it easy to misinterpret. So there I went giving my advice. I even gave her an example that she could use if she wanted. It took me some time to help, too. I didn’t just rattle off garbage. Another writer asked for help and I took that very seriously.
The response I received shocked me. “That is the total opposite of what I asked! I said NOT looking over his shoulder!” Basically she was telling me, “Thanks for your help, you friggin’ moron! Mind your own business unless you comment that my work is perfect.” There were so many exclamation points I felt the wind from her yells right through the screen.
I read her comment– stunned, speechless, not knowing how to respond, or if I even should.
Remembering this is social media, I politely replied, “I’m sorry if I upset you. I was only trying to help. I didn’t sleep well last night and I guess I must have missed the ‘NOT’. Note to self: Don’t put in your two-cents without sleep.”
She wrote back with a calmer attitude. “You didn’t upset me. I guess I could’ve phrased my question clearer.”
And we went our separate ways.
Yesterday, I replied to an email and the recipient totally misunderstood me. I was trying to be cute in my response, even included a *wink wink* so he’d know I wasn’t totally serious. It back-fired. Big time! Now I don’t know if he thinks I’m a self-righteous ass or not. He’s someone I don’t want thinking of me that way.
With social media, texting, emails, it’s very difficult to interpret HOW people mean things because we can’t see their face when they say it. We can’t see the eye roll or the smile. The same holds true for fiction writing. I don’t have problems conveying what I mean in my stories, why do I have such a hard time finding the right words in everyday life?
This morning I got to thinking about my blog. Did I offend someone with my replies to their comments? Did I come across as a pompous know-it-all? I don’t know. I hope NOT.
So, to all my faithful followers, and my new ones, please, please, if something I say rubs you the wrong way– tell me! I can promise you, I’m only trying to help. I didn’t have anyone to help me. That’s why I am so passionate about helping other writers. I wish someone would’ve told me– do this, don’t do that. That is where I’m coming from. I absolutely do NOT think I’m better than anyone. I know I still have a lot to learn. My hope is that I can slow down and re-phrase my thoughts properly so there is never any confusion about what I say. But that takes time and practice. Please be patient with me. My heart really IS in the right place.
Has this ever happened to you? I’d love to hear I’m not alone.