Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why My Writing Stinks (Sometimes), Part 3

More and more posts are popping up dealing with some things I have been thinking and feeling. I wish I had time to address them all, but I need to wind up this series. However, there were two particular posts that struck a chord with me, and I would like to share what these authors had to say along with some of my thoughts.

The first post is by Jenny B. Jones. She’s teaching creative writing and this is one of the things says about her students and herself:

Author Joseph Chilton Pearce says, “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”  These kids don’t have that fear. Yet.

But when you write for a living, you do. You write for industry standards, for your publisher’s expectations, for your own expectations, personal rules, logic, for trends, for this, for that.

And it sucks the fun right out of it. And sometimes it sucks the life out of it. And sometimes it sucks the life out of the author. (

Jenny spoke so beautifully it brought tears to my eyes. As I said in Monday’s post, (because of fear) the words that do escape my fingers are only misshapen vessels. And, instead of building something of beauty, as does a glass blower, I’m writhing in pain because of my fear. And the writing joy is being sucked from me as well.

Our fears can strangle and leave us blocked, unable to create. One of the great fears we often have is we’ll never be published writers. Jennifer Crusie talks about this in her post,  A Writer Without a Publisher Is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle.

Crusie says women were once fed four great lies (I’m not so sure we are not still being fed these to a certain extent—but that’s not our topic). Also, writers, she states, are being fed four corresponding lies.

The first lie for women was marriage made them “real” women. Crusie says in the same way, writers are fed the lie that being published makes us “real” writers.

We are not to be ashamed that we are unpublished. Every single writer once stood in the same shoes. Were great writers less great before publication? I love reading biographies of writers. Many struggled to become published, and many never knew fame in their own lifetimes. Most wrote in relative obscurity. Yet they were “real” writers.

writerWe must proclaim the truth: writers are real writers whether published or unpublished.

The second lie for women, according to Crusie, was they must change themselves to wrangle a husband. For writers, it is we must change our writing to wrangle a publisher.

I think this is even more true if we are writing for the Christian market. (Can a lie be more true?) Some Christian publishers expect certain things when they receive a manuscript. Writers can go crazy trying to meet those expectations. This is the thing: If we are truly Christians, we should be writing books that reflect who we are, but, as we are writing them, we should not be writing them to please a publisher, an agent, our critique partners, our spouses, our friends, or even our fellow Christians. Whom, then, are we writing to please? God, of course. We write with a dedication, with a focus as narrow as a laser beam, aimed at the One. When we write to please God, we, as always when we obey God, ultimately please ourselves, and, perhaps, in so doing, please a few others along the way, perhaps even a publisher or two.

We must proclaim the truth: God is pleased when we, as Christian writers, do not distort our writing but remain focused on him. God will lead us on the right path. (And this does not mean to be arrogant and unyielding to correction. Others may guide and correct our writing along the way, but as we are in the process of writing, we should forget all else and focus on God. Trying to please others while we are doing the actual writing, will leave us confused and unfocused.)

“Any husband was better than no husband” was the third lie told to women. And, according to Crusie, the corollary for writers is “any publication is better than no publication.”

This makes writers desperate, throwing themselves at anyone and everyone. Spamming Facebook walls, sending unsolicited emails, pitching in bathrooms. An ugly sight. We need to retain our dignity. Let me expand this one to the lie: anyone buying my book is better than no one. Well, that might be true if we’re only interested in the monetary value of our book. If we think our book is of any integral worth—and hopefully we have done our best to make it so—it deserves to not be thrown at people willy nilly. That includes publishers. We should look for publishers who will be a good fit for our book, just as we need to look for readers who will enjoy our book. I’ve got to say it. Don’t prostitute your manuscript or book.

We must proclaim the truth: we will treat our manuscript/book with the dignity it deserves and wait for the right publisher (and readers).

And the last lie women were once told was even a bad marriage was better than no marriage. For writers it is staying in a bad relationship with a publisher is better than no relationship with a publisher.

And, again, this indicates what we think we and our books are worth. Are they worth being taken advantage of, ignored, or browbeaten by some unscrupulous publishers? (Not that I’m saying there are any. I don’t actually know many publishers. And I say that out of fear some publisher may read this.)

We must proclaim the truth: if we value our work and ourselves, we will refuse to stay in an unhealthy relationship with a publisher.

Because of our fears, we buy into these four lies. God tells us throughout the Bible to fear not, he is with us. Let us cast away our fears and proclaim the truth, to write with joy, therefore enabling us to enjoy the dignity we deserve as writers. (And to quit stinking!)


  1. Oh, what great thoughts from Jones and Crusie. Thank you for this series. I, too, have a difficult time with fears. Amen to your last sentence.

  2. Ha, ha! I didn't mean your last sentence, but the second to last sentence. On the other hand, Amen to the quit stinking, too.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts.