The Dangers of Not Loving Your Own Work

I just received the proof for a short story that will be appearing in an anthology, and as I read it, I thought what I do every single time I read a proof: “God, this is awful. I can’t believe they accepted this.”

Most writers I know have a realistic view of their own work. They write a first draft and are aware that it might possibly be crap, but that within that crap lays the foundation of a good story. They work on it and come to recognize at some point if it’s good or not. Some writers have an over-inflated view of their talents, while some very skilled writers are never, ever happy with their work. Leonid_Pasternak_-_The_Passion_of_creation

I believe a writer should always strive for more and should always work to improve because there’s always room for improvement. But I also think that we should see it when we’ve created something good.

The real danger for writers comes after publication. I’m sure many of you know the feeling: the story is published (whether it’s a novel or a short story in an anthology), you open it up to look at it, and you begin reading. And at some point, you go “bleh!”

This happens to me every time I’ve done it. So, I’ve made it a rule to never read my own work after publication. It saves me the angst of wanting to rewrite and not being able to.

The other issue with reading your work after publication is finding typos and other errors. It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing you can do about it and all it does is aggravate you.

The exception to this is if you’re self-published. Then you should read your work after publication because if there are errors, those are on you and it’s up to you to fix them.

There are some writers out there who are in love with themselves and think that everything they write is pure gold. I think most of us are at least a tiny bit critical of ourselves. And that’s okay—it keeps us on our toes. But if you don’t completely love your work, you may find it difficult to read through your published work. So, enjoy the fact that your work is published, hug it if it’s a hard copy, then let it go. Your child has flown the coop.

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11 thoughts on “The Dangers of Not Loving Your Own Work

  1. Well, I love your work and I only ever see it after publication! So there. Not to mention it was accepted! 🙂 But I know what you mean. I’ve grown to not hate my stuff by the time it sees the light of day, but I do see things I’d do differently, or wish I had the talent to do differently. I think what you say is why I grow more depressed the closer my first novel gets to publication (I’ve got the PDF proof now). I simply won’t be able to change it once it’s committed to print or e-ink. I like to think wanting to do better is a good thing, right?

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    1. Certainly, wanting to be a better writer is a good thing. But castigating ourselves over every little thing we wish we could’ve done differently is not good. The first one is always hard, Elaine. Letting it go is a scary thing, but it will get easier.

      And, thank you. 🙂

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  2. I think we all have an inner critic. It’s part of being a writer. It would be possible to revise forever. Nothing is ever perfect. But there is a skill in knowing when to say a piece — article or book — is finished. If we never finish, we never publish. My first book comes out June 26, so these are the things I tell myself. You don’t want to know what the critic inside is saying.

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  3. I have to say I am relieved to see that I am not unique in this. I had the same feeling when I read my ms for formatting errors after final edits… a moment of… this is crap. *sigh*

    I do it while I’m writing as well. I’ll write something I think is wonderful, and then the next morning, I read it and wonder how in the world I ever thought it was any good… lol

    It’s worse when a bit of time passes which is why I think people suggest you set your MS aside for awhile before you edit it. I experienced this first hand with my last novel. I started querying it in the spring of 2014. I received an offer and accepted it in the fall. I had to make some changes prior to signing the contract, and when I opened my MS to make the changes, I found all sorts of problems that made me wonder how in the world I ever got an offer in the first place!

    But I did. And I’m published. I realize it is something to be proud of. And I’m confident enough to realize I have some worthy talent, but with plenty of room to grow. I read books that are far better than mine all the time, and I think… someday, I’ll be able to do that if I keep at it.

    Thanks for sharing.

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      1. Agreed. I hadn’t thought of it that way – more of a I like what they did, I’d like to develop that skill. I agree 100% with finding your own voice and being yourself.

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  4. I know one writer who never reads reviews of her work, because she says they’re written for the purpose of helping readers to decide whether or not to buy her work, not for her to change it. While a reviewer may be unhappy with a choice she’s made in a particular work, there isn’t going to be anything that she can do after it’s out there and published, and even if there any helpful lessons for next time, she’s probably learned them herself through the process of writing this time.

    This sounds like a similar (and similarly healthy!) principle! I like it!

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    1. Yes, reading reviews of your work is a dangerous thing. You may not always like what you read, and what good does that do? Not everyone will like your work, and that’s okay, but you don’t need to know that. LOL Seriously, people can be cruel and it’s unproductive to read their venom. And even when they’re not being cruel, they can be just plain wrong or uninformed or projecting. I know one writer who panned my work and accused me of doing exactly what other reviewers said she did in *her* work. It was ridiculous. I try to never read reviews. Doesn’t always work out that way, but I try. 🙂

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