Hate Yourself (and Your Writing) Later—This Is Time for Congratulations

This thumb's for you (give yourself a hand)

This thumb’s for you (give yourself a hand)

Writers, being creative types, have some very creative means of disliking themselves. “Nah, I really didn’t nail the end of that story.” “Why should I bother to write today—everything I write is crap.” “He/she is so much better of a writer than me. What’s the use?”

I can say with authority that those are the kinds of things that writers think, though they don’t always express them so bluntly. I see varying slices of those self-souring comments on many of the writing blogs I frequent, in biographies I’ve read (of very successful writers, mind you), in conversations I’ve had at conferences and in person. Writers have acrobatic means of torquing their writing temperaments into cowering self-reproach.

What they don’t have is much talent at giving themselves a round of applause.

Of course it’s good to keep yourself honest, review your materials with a critical eye (even two eyes), probe for weaknesses with the intent to strengthen. And there are times when that “hmm, this isn’t what it could be” review of your work is credible, and even motivational. But at some steps on your writing trek, it’s time to drop the stick and go completely carrot: praise yourself.

C’mon, you can do it.

Self-Praise? How Novel

My motivation in writing this is to tell you to eat more tasty carrots (I like mine frosted) and ditch more self-reproach sticks. My trigger in writing this is that last week I finished a novel I’ve been working on (and often not working on) for eight years. I have to swallow when I say this, because my reflex so often when discussing my writing is to declare that it’s poop, but I had an anti-reflex this time: I think it’s pretty good. [I see you suspiciously eyeing that “pretty”—yes, still I must qualify, but hey, it’s progress.]

There’s no predicting the publishing route I’ll take with this book, but right now, I don’t want to look at the road back or the road ahead. I simply want to take satisfaction with finishing something, and given myself a clap on the back. (And in about 15 minutes, a martini.)

Writers, give yourself a break. There’s plenty of time to give your writing the gimlet eye. But pledge to yourself: the next time you finish a book, a story, a paragraph, even a cussedly fine sentence, tell yourself you done good. After a while, you may even start to believe it. That good feeling might even prompt you to write another good sentence, and yet another.


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6 thoughts on “Hate Yourself (and Your Writing) Later—This Is Time for Congratulations

  1. Mazel Tov! Felicidades! Til Hamingju! 祝贺! Tebrikler! And, from Marcos-Land, Gratulácie, Tom!

    Ah, I recall reading a sampling of this work, back in its salad, or perhaps martini, days. I’m very much looking forward to reading it complete, in its finished form!

  2. Rick, such a polyglottal congratulations! (Better take your medication for that multiple personality disorder soon though.) Yes, this novel has been slumbering, rising up sleepily, snarling and napping again for too long. Good to pat its rested head. And now I can pay attention to the other novel-in-progress, of which you know much.

  3. Yes I do! Oh jeez now I’ll never keep up with you.
    Ah, but Unctual Natchez has been rattling around in my head of late. He has been known to stimulate quite a few bursts of creativity.

  4. Oh, you’ll keep up—I have 101 writing assignments at the moment, so I’ll be my usual laggardly self.

    I would like to buy that Unctual Natchez a drink.

  5. I feel much less work-hate of late. My biggest challenge is pausing to say hey, I finished something, when I finish something.

    A Still, Small Voice was well under way before I realized I hadn’t taken eleven minutes off to celebrate finishing That She Is Made of Truth — so I stopped, and I did.

    I haven’t noticed a drop off in creativity caused by my failure to self-flagellate. I suspect it’s not actually necessary for the creative process. Not, mind you, that I would tell other creatives how to create.

  6. Joel, you are so, so, so Rational and all. A good quality to have when these irrationalities crop up.

    A raise of the flag and a trumpet blast to the statement that self-lashing isn’t necessary for the creative process. Nay! It’s just that I often see it (and have experienced it directly). It’s the weird Uncle Ernie in the corner of your mind that should just shut up.

    And congratulations on your recent works (and I know there are more to come)!

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