The young man stood up looking very eager to read the handful of typewritten pages held confidently in his hands. He surveyed the table where half a dozen men and women had gathered for a monthly writer’s group and after his eyes met and engaged most of his fellow writers, the young man spoke.
“I brought the first part of my novel and it’s really rough. It’s not where I want it to be and I think it could be a lot better, but here it is.”
The group is my writer’s group and I asked the young man this question:
“If you’re apologizing for what you’ve written, how can we be open to thinking it’s any good?”
He looked at me with a stunned face. I didn’t mean to stop him from reading, only stop him from tearing himself and his writing down before anyone had a chance to hear it.
It turned out what this young man read was good. It was edgy and compelling. And while it did need some editing what it needed more was freedom, freedom from the constraints of the writer’s own self-doubt.
The need to announce what’s wrong with oneself, one’s writing in general and the piece one is working on in particular has been a constant issue in our writing group.
It’s like a disease.
It can be a simple thing like:
“I didn’t have time to write this the way I wanted.”
But you brought it anyway and we are supposed to listen to you read something you don’t like and give you what kind of feedback?
Or one of my very favorites:
“I’m really not a writer, but…”
Oh yes you are. What’s that in your hand, lasagna? I refuse to let people off using that lame-o excuse. You wrote it, you own it. And in the writing of it you are the writer.
And more than once in the course of the night we have this:
“It’s only a first draft.”
In other words, don’t expect much.
Really? Is that why you’re here? To announce to all of us that you are going to read something mediocre? The fact is we are all writing first drafts until the damn thing is finished. Then it’s called a novel.
In our writer’s group when I hear writers start out with an apology I stop them, ask them to start again. I’m not saying it’s better to start with arrogance and portray the work as the best thing anyone will ever hear. But please take ownership and not shame.
Apologies indicate something is wrong and forgiveness is in order. Do writers really need forgiveness before anyone hears what they wrote?
What a set up. An audience is ready to think anything from this might not be very good to this must be down right awful.
Ok, thanks for warning us, continue…
Whatever we write it’s a good idea to believe in it at whatever stage. Writing anything is a transforming process, each draft on the way to the final one has it’s own life. Like a toddler growing and learning to walk, each stage of our writing has meaning.
Don’t knock it.
We can learn a lot about our future readers when we let them comment on our writing without being warned ahead of time by our fears and misgivings.
Here I am back to commenting on fear. Writers by nature have to be unafraid. Why apologize when allowing others to share in the wonder of being able to actually articulate something coming out of nowhere?
It’s a big deal being a writer, not everyone can do it. Be proud of it.
Keep writing, never quit.
Christina for PenPaperWrite
Next 60 Scenes Writing Method 1-Day Workshop Atlanta, GA Saturday May 20th
Only 10 participants and we fill up fast.