Don’t believe your own press – even if it’s good!
I really don’t know how many times I have made the titular point, above. I know I’ve said it a number of times here on Uphill Writing, and several times on the long bemoaned WEbook.
Sadly, making a statement and living by it are two different things… at least they often are for me.
The point about your own press is this: if you start to believe what others say about you and your work (or worse, start to believe what you, yourself think and say), you may be in for a nasty surprise.
A few months back our branch of the California Writers Club held an Agents and Producers day. It went well, and we all learned a lot.
Unfortunately some of what was learned was at the expense of the ego. Mine, specifically.
Charlotte Cook, a favorite speaker at our branch, and an excellent editor, invited the participants to bring in a single page of a manuscript for her review.
Knowing how thorough she is, and (frankly) wanting to impress her with my… erm… wonderful writing, I spent three days working up a single page of my novel, FIVE. And when I say work, I really mean it. I wrote what I considered to be top-notch prose. I edited ruthlessly. I removed every unnecessary word, and some that I thought were necessary, but figured she would not agree. I checked and double-checked spelling, punctuation, flow, characterization, you name it. I did it. Polish, polish, polish.
It took her less than two minutes to change the color of the page from black on white to blue on white. (Her courteous nature prevented her from using a red pen, but blue can be just as devastating.)
Without realizing it I had bought into my own press. I believed my work was good… praise-worthy, even, but it didn’t work out that way.
Now, if Charlotte was the type of person who built herself up by putting others down, I might have just sloughed it off. But, she isn’t like that. In fact, she’s one of the nicest people I know. She knows her stuff, and she cares about the people she works with. And, I have to admit her nature and style softened the blow somewhat.
Why do I tell you all this? For one thing, learning not to buy into your own press is a lesson worth the pain. But, more importantly, I have found both a teacher and an editor that I feel I can trust.
Therefore I’ve enrolled in a seven-week course she is holding in September, and am busy putting together a THREE-page offering for our meeting on Wednesday, next. While I will put the same effort into these three pages that I did into that single page example, I will hopefully be ready to learn instead of being wounded. This time.
I’ll be revealing what she said on Thursday, so stay tuned.
Oh, and if you’d like to learn more, visit her site: Adapting Sideways.