Pillar 6 of the Writing Life
As writers, there are certain traps, misconceptions and attitudes we can fall into. If we stay in these traps too long, our writing careers will be derailed, sometimes before the first stretch of track is laid.
Trap #1: Everything I write is publishable
No, it’s not. In its extreme, this attitude is sometimes expressed as “God gave me every word in this book and you can’t change any of it.”
Unfortunately, not everything we write is publishable. Sometimes market forces render a project untenable. Most of the time, however, it’s because we have not put in the time and the effort to learn and apply the craft.
The best way out of this trap is to become and remain teachable. There are times, when I’ll look at a class at a workshop or conference and think “I know all that.” Experience has taught me that’s probably a class I need to attend, even if only as a refresher to identify and wash out bad habits I’ve developed.
Have you ever blown off a comment from a critique group member because you thought you were a better writer? I have. And regretted it because that person found something my other critique partners missed.
Never stop learning and investing. I’ve had to learn humility and change my attitude to acknowledgethat I don’t know it all.
Trap #2: Influence of others
Thankfully, God brings people across our paths to encourage and inspire us. I’ve been blessed with a mentor who challenges me and advises me. I’ve shared her telling me to “Get up earlier.” When my fire burns low, she knows exactly what to say to feed the flames. When I’m discouraged or confused, she speaks wisdom. I’m convinced God brought her across my path for this reason.
Looking for a mentor? First, go to God and ask him to open doors and to bring people into your life who can do this. When you’re evaluating a possible mentor, look for someone with a servant’s heart.
Unfortunately, there are others who also seek to influence us, but in a negative way. They hold us back or stop us altogether. It’s not always intentional but, sadly, sometimes it is. Maybe they’re misinformed about the craft or the business. Maybe they’re jealous that we’re better writers than they are. Or they’re frustrated at their own lack of success.
They may mean well but their comments or suggestions burden us. Sometimes, it seems their primary goal in life is to get people to stop writing or to write just like they do. Trust God to give you that little nudge in your spirit that this is not the right person for you to share your work and your dreams with.
Trap #3: Influence of self
The last trap I want to discuss is our self-talk. Like the influence of others, this can be two-edged. If we constantly tell ourselves how great our writing is, we shut the door to learning from others. Pride interferes and closes us off to real learning.
The other side of this is our negative self-talk. This is where we tell ourselves we can’t write. We put ourselves down for ever thinking we could. Sometimes this is because we are such perfectionists, our writing is never good enough. Other times, it’s the negative self-image we may have carried for years. The “I can never do anything right” attitude.
Another internal trap is jealousy and envy. We see other writers have success and we get judgmental. We can’t understand why they get an agent, win an award, sign a contract with a publisher and we don’t. Our writing is just as good if not better. Jealousy and envy sow seeds of bitterness that poison relationships and turn our own writing dark and brooding. And not in a good way but in a way that weakens it and makes it even more difficult to succeed.
This negative self-talk turns us away from God, from what he has called us to do. The only way out is prayer and genuine repentance and re-submission to him and his plan for our lives.
What other traps have tripped you up in your writing journey?