Are You In Love With Your Writing?

by Anne Wayman

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.

  1. 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,
  2. 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.

How do you detach from your writing?

Write well and often,

Anne

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathryn Pless October 29, 2009 at 1:27 am

I can really relate to this article. Recently I wrote what I thought was an excellent article. I was passionate, poured my all into it and sent it off for review. It came back with some edits, which I did. Once again I sent my “baby” off. The edits I did weren’t accepted and the article was rejected. My first thought was, how dare they?? Then I stepped back, reread the article and could see why they rejected it. I hadn’t done the edits properly and learned from the experience. It has made me a better writer and also made me realize that a rejected article isn’t personal. But still, there’s a part of me that still says, Humph! LOL

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Anne October 29, 2009 at 11:22 am

Good for you… for learning.

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Hannah October 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Putting it aside for a while helps me. If I’m not going to edit right away, it’s better, because I can’t sit on it very long before I’m itching to hack and slash. Since I’ve been learning how to edit, I find myself doing it with everything I read, which is kind of annoying, actually. It’s much better when I get back to my own work, because I CAN change it. I’m getting ready to rip something out of my current book and consolidate a little and I’m not happy about it, but it needs to be done. :P

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Anne October 29, 2009 at 11:23 am

Hannah… I know what you mean… I’ve learned to turn my editor off mostly when I’m just reading for fun.

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jorgekafkazar October 28, 2009 at 5:40 pm

All very good points, Anne, as usual. As far as reading a piece out loud to a tape recorder, it is now possible, through some beneficent miracle of modern technology, and Windows (about which I’m not so sure regarding the beneficent part), to record voice inside your computer. Does anyone even make tape recorders, now? Probably. Heck, you can still get buggy whips:

http://jedediahsbuggywhip.com/
.-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

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Anne October 29, 2009 at 11:24 am

Lol, good point… although sometimes I want to read out loud and tape away from my computer… have a tiny recorder for interviews which will download to my computer.. a great combo.

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Tannice Pendegrass October 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm

I heartily recommend joining a writing group. It can be hard to show something that feels so personal or that you’re ‘in love with’ to others, but that thin skin soons get thickened up when a massive plot hole or inaccurate description has been picked up by someone in your group.

You also find differing reactions to your work: for example, one of my pieces elicited tears from a reader in my writing group. Another found it funny! Another member’s work divided our group: a story about a widow’s experience with a ghost led to discussions about the character and whether we sympathised with her. One member hated the character and the rest of us loved her… discussion of this kind reveals that a reader makes of your work what they will.

It’s also helpful to criticise others’ work – that way you find that it’s easier to look at your own work with fresh eyes, bringing that much-needed distance that allows good, “loved” work to be brilliant.

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Anne October 29, 2009 at 11:51 am
Meryl K Evans October 28, 2009 at 12:10 pm

When I write — I am writing for the reader not myself. I’ve never had trouble detaching myself — maybe it’s my nature or my knowing editors turn my work into a great final product. Usually I don’t surprise myself until after an article is published… sometimes I read it and think “Dang! I can’t believe I wrote that.” (in a good way). I don’t think that while working on it as I’m focused on creating a complete and effective piece.
.-= Meryl K Evans´s last blog ..How Muscle Memory Affects Writing =-.

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Anne October 29, 2009 at 11:51 am

Meryl, I’m more like you in that regard than not… which I’m grateful for.

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Jane Rutherford January 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I fell in love with exactly one piece of fiction that I’ve written… It was a short dark story about a toxic relationship… I try very hard to edit my work, but sometimes it’s just easier to send it off to an editor who has no emotions towards my writing…

Jane Rutherford’s last blog post..On a roll, baby!

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admin January 8, 2009 at 10:17 am

Thanks all… Devon, I agree we need passion… love your alternate view.

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Tonya Moore January 7, 2009 at 2:58 pm

That’s some great advice. I do try to maintain some level of detachment but with varying degrees of success. More often than not, it just degenerates into a love-hate sort of situation. At times like this, like Lou Paun said, walking away is not a bad idea. It’s amazing how much time can change one’s perspective about how a story flows. I’m constantly suprised by how ideas that seem to fail, sudden have a clear solution after I’ve set it aside for a while. There’s almost never predicting how or when a story will turn out, regardless of the writer’s initial notion of how it should end/flow.

Tonya Moore’s last blog post..The Last Archangel

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Lou Paun January 7, 2009 at 10:46 am

Time. That’s the only thing that works for me. The more complex and exploratory the writing is, the more time I need away from it to be able to judge it accurately. Some of my books have spent over a year in a drawer, waiting for me to decide what they needed. The rewards have always been worth the wait — artistically and financially.

I can’t do that with daily commercial writing, and I don’t. Of course, that writing isn’t complex and exploratory, either!

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Devon Ellington January 7, 2009 at 10:44 am

I don’t think you have to be “out of love” with your writing in order to act like a professional and edit, cut, etc. properly.

I love HEX BREAKER, the book of mine published last year. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t put it aside, read it as though someone else wrote it, and attack it with the red machete where necessary. And my love for the piece spread to the readers; The Jain Lazarus Adventures are building a solid fan base.

We should be passionate about our work; we should love it. That doesn’t mean that we, as professionals, are unable to look at it with some sort of objectivity and make it the best it can be.

Devon Ellington’s last blog post..Wednesday, January 7, 2009

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Jan McDaniel January 7, 2009 at 7:35 am

This is so true. Being objective about your writing, pinpointing weak areas you need to work on, is the only way to improve it.

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George L Ghio January 6, 2009 at 8:03 pm

It’s true that people can become too precious about their own words. But then it is a hard world out there. If one wants to preserve their delusions about their work they are best advised to only show it to their mother.

Don’t kid yourself, get it read by an independent person.

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Samantha Herman January 6, 2009 at 5:25 pm

I agree with the need to create distance between yourself and your writing, but I think this is something that can only come with experience. It is definitely a learned technique that requires effort on the writer’s part.

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Thursday Bram January 6, 2009 at 5:21 pm

One of my professors gave me a great piece of advice when I was in her class:

Cut any piece of writing you absolutely love. Remove it entirely. You can put it up on a wall, you can file it away — but you can’t use it. You won’t be able to edit it. You won’t be able to listen to critique of it. So just take it out.

As hard as it is to cut something I love from my writing, I’ve made a point of following her advice. I’ve found, truthfully, I can write better without those parts I care about.

Thursday Bram’s last blog post..The Business of Freelance Writing Carnival, Edition 49

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Celine Roque January 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Among the things you suggested, setting the manuscript aside works best for me. After that, I do another edit and show it to another person, if necessary.

I think falling in love with the words you write per se can be detrimental to a writer, especially during the editing process. I try to fall in love with the idea of creating the best work possible instead.

Celine Roque’s last blog post..Taking Shortcuts

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