Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yes, sometimes you're a hack (but that's a good thing)

You spent a week crafting a perfect chapter. You polish it, revise it, and even dream about it. You go to your critique group and submit it. You aren't an arrogant fool, you don't think they are going to drop to their knees and insist that your writing is worthy of a Pulitzer, Booker, or Noble Prize or anything, but you'd thought they wouldn't have much to say.

Maybe you thought you had evocative descriptions. No! They found them overwrought and annoying.
Clever dialog? No! Clich├ęd nonsense!
Taut pacing! No! A snooze-fest.

You're crushed. It was great! It was practically ready for direct submission to the senior editor of OmniWorld Publishing!

Are you nothing but a talentless hack? Why do you even bother? Must you continue in your incessant attempt to inflict your literary poison upon the world? Why you dare waste precious minutes of a reader's time with the tripe you keep insisting is an actual story?

Now, I think all writers have felt like this at one time or another. People are notoriously unreliable at self-evaluation. Chances are many of those same people in your critique group feel the same, even if they don't always admit it. You're probably better than you think, but that being said, I would argue, that as long as you keep it under control, feeling inadequate in your writing skill can be a very good thing. The realization that you're not a master of the craft can help continue pushing to do everything you can to improve.

What are the people you don't think are hacks doing that you're not? You can study their technique and the technique of other writers you admire. What are they doing? How are they doing it? This is another benefit of critique groups. The mere act of actively analyze someone's writings forces you to think about what does and does not work in a story. That sort of analysis can only serve to strengthen your own writing.

So, don't let those insecurities get you down. Just use them as fuel for your writing journey.


Garry G. said...

All too true, another important fact to remember though is that every person has a different perception of what is and isn’t good.
Some of my e-published stuff has been ripped apart by some people and at the same time others have marked them amongst their favourite stories.

So the moral, if there is one, is don’t congratulate or berate yourself too much because of what someone says. I find shrugging and trying to write something better each time helps!

J.A. Beard said...

That's a great point, Garry. Sometimes I like to go to Amazon and find books I love just to read the one-star reviews and reflects on differences in taste and opinion.

Tiphanie Thomas said...

Well, said, Jeremy! I agree!

CherylAnne Ham said...

Well said. I couldn't agree more.

Vegetarian Cannibal said...

Very true and well said. I think it is part of being an "artist." Our work is subjective--we rely on others to validate our efforts.

When I get down on myself I simply remember that I can only do my best. I have yet to receive a harsh and negative review...but there's always that fear that if I really put myself out there, someone will bash me eventually.

I just got to do my own thing and ignore the rest.