Letting Others Define You: Writing Creativity Killers, Part 2
Standing for what you should be writing when everyone wants you to fit the status quo takes a strong mind. I know. I had to deal with the expectations of others while sorting myself out as an author. It wasn’t easy, because I just naturally like pleasing others, and the crowd mentality can be hard to contradict. I had to realize that while listening to advice can be good, only I have the insight to decide what is best for my writing career.
The price of letting others define you is that you won't live your own dream.
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Over-Prioritizing Writing Rules
Rules abound in the writing world today. I sometimes list them in my articles because most are based on sound writing advice. They should be studied, understood, and applied where beneficial. However, one size does not fit all. I always include the caveat that the needs of your story take priority over writing rules. Trying to cross ‘t’s’ and dot ‘i’s’ can leave you feeling like a juggler with too many balls in the air. There’s nothing more guaranteed to kill your creativity.
One of the things I glean from reading vintage authors is their complete unawareness of certain writing rules we consider essential in modern fiction. For example, Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier (affiliate) contains lengthy descriptive passages. If put before a modern editor, these would probably be cut down to size, and that would be a tragedy. I savored every beautiful word and couldn’t imagine the book without any of them.
Caring Too Much What Others Think
Every one of us wants to be liked. That’s why it’s so hard to face criticism. That’s never more true than when receiving critiques or reviews of your writing. It’s easy to believe the worst, even when it’s only one person’s opinion. This leads to second-guessing yourself while writing, a sure creativity killer.
Some writers, to help them sidestep this susceptibility, don’t read reviews of their books. Reviews aren’t necessarily educated opinions, but if you can’t put them in that perspective, avoiding them may be a good idea. I should say, though, that I read all reviews of my books to help gauge what readers want (and don’t want) in my stories. I’ve had to train myself not to fixate on negative remarks or hyper-focus on praise. Either mindset creates problems.
Whether your reviews drop you into the dungeon or lift you to the tower, keep them in perspective by not giving too much weight to what others think of your writing.
Whatever form of publication you pursue, your writing will probably come under the scrutiny of an editor. This is usually a beneficial process that can save you from yourself, but sometimes it’s hard to see that. Edits can cause you to lose confidence in yourself as a writer and even question your writing ability.
It helps to remember that other writers, agents, and editors aren’t perfect, and their opinions, while professional, are just that. I suggest that, while remaining teachable, you avoid giving others too much sway over your writing. Having clarity about what you wish to convey in your story helps you protect your writing voice while still learning from others.
Some Final Thoughts from Janalyn
There’s a delicate balance between taking advice and guidance from others and following where your own free spirit leads. Your personality determines which way you’ll lean. Navigate this with an awareness of your tendency to give too much or too little weight to the opinions and advice of others.