Wednesday, January 25

Keep Your Trenchcoat Closed

A writer's impulse to flash can be a dangerous (and occasionally illegal) thing.

Because once you're past that point of OMG OTHER PEOPLE SEEING MY WRITING IS LIKE FALLING INTO BOILING ACID FULL OF SHAME AND REGRET, well, it's rather pleasant to show your writing off. Especially when (not to name names) certain relatives and fellow amateur writers say nice things to you.

Things like:
I like this.

This is nice.

This is great.

This is excellent.

This is my favourite thing ever.

You should be worshiped as a goddess.

Of course, there are those negative (oh, excuse me, I meant constructive, helpful, and my personal favourite: just being honest) comments that send your ego screeching back into the boiling acid stage. But more often than not, I find if people don't like something they just wander off - someone who takes the time to comment is generally pleased with the thing.

And that praise, however lukewarm, tends to be a little addictive. For a sensitive (read: cripplingly insecure) soul like mine, there's something edifying about someone (often a stranger) telling you that what you're doing is worthwhile, that something you made had an effect on someone else.

And there are so many options for flashing now: between FictionPress and Jottify and Livejournal and Smashwords and blogs and facebook notes and haikus that fit into tweets. It's all about showing off, pimping, and the instant gratification of comments, likes and shares. And all the cool kids are doing it - tweeting lines from their books and even posting 'deleted novel scenes' to their blogs (which I really don't get - isn't that the literary equivalent of serving leftovers to dinner guests?)

While deep in this oversharing phase, I happened upon the first piece of advice in Dorothea Brande's Becoming A Writer: Don't whore out your amateur stuff, you idiot. It's counterproductive.

Okay, maybe I'm paraphrasing. But that's the gist, and it's been bothering me ever since.

I have the manuscript for my first novel, Sarai, complete and sitting on my laptop. I could format it tonight and have it up on Smashwords by tomorrow. And that is so bloody tempting - but I know it's not good enough yet. It's far from good enough. It's embarrassingly inadequate, actually.

But the truth is that I've posted writing - here and on my Jottify account - that I didn't like, that only marginally passed the not-embarrassingly-inadequate mark.

But I posted it anyway, because it was 'good enough for the internet.' I flashed it because I wanted a reaction, even if it was just a passing like by someone who simply hoped I would like their stuff back. But the hard truth is that unless someone is a professional writer or editor, their opinion, however glowing, will not make you into a better writer.

So I've made a resolution to keep my trenchcoat closed, and face those hard edits, ask those hard questions of myself and make my work stand up to my own (punishingly high) standards, rather than taking the easy road and flashing bits that I know aren't at their best yet.

Do you think writers these days - especially n00bs like me - suffer from chronic oversharing?  Share (or overshare) your thoughts in the comments!

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