Some time ago a man I know slightly asked me to to read what he said was his “best piece of writing.” I knew I was in trouble just from his tone of voice; he had fallen in love with his prose.
It’s easy to fall into this trap. Writing is hard work. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, poetry, an essay or an article, it takes serious effort to get the words on paper in a coherent fashion.
When we write about something we feel passionate about, we have to dig deep in our own psyche. We struggle for exactly the right words, then struggle some more to push them into pithy sentences, paragraphs and, finally, the completed piece.
It’s not surprising that we fall in love with our own writing!
Writers Need to be Objective About Their Own Work
When we fall in love with our writing, we lose our objectivity; we turn off our internal editor – the one that helps us polish a piece so it’s marketable. When we’re in love with our writing, if someone suggests a change, we bristle, even if the suggestion is a good one made by a reputable editor or other person we have reason to trust.
It’s tricky, because we often need the passion to write the piece in the first place, but somehow we must, after we have written, develop the ability to look at the piece with some detachment.
Develop Detachment About Your Writing
Here are some ways to develop the objectivity or detacment you need:
- Put the piece away for at least 24 hours – 24 days is much better. Coming to it with reasonably fresh eyes often helps us see what we couldn’t when we were doing the initial writing and editing. This also helps with proofreading.
- Read your piece out loud. Something happens when we read our writing out loud. Our ear picks up all sorts of things, like awkwardness or incomplete sentences, or vague thoughts that we won’t spot when we simply re-read the manuscript.
- Read your piece out loud to a tape recorder, then play it back. This method will pick up even more because you’ll hear yourself differently.
- Take a deep breath and ask someone you trust to read it and give you honest feedback. If you’re going to use this method, you’ve got to do the mental gymnastics so you’re truly open to constructive criticism.
If, after trying at least a couple of these methods, you find you’re still in love with the prose you’ve created, you really have only two choices left.
- You can go ahead and submit it, knowing it may not sell or if it does, the editor may require changes you probably won’t like, or,
- Let it go as a commercial piece of writing and just keep it ‘as is’ for yourself alone.
Whatever you decide, get busy writing the next piece, and the next, and the next. The more we write, the better we get.
Write well and often,
Image from http://www.sxc.hu