The Importance of Being Critical (of your own work)

“Have you ever googled your first book?”  My husband asked me last night as he was getting ready for bed.

I was already in bed, warm and comfortable and smelling of muscle rub as I contemplated how much of an idiot I was.  I’ve had a sore rear for a couple of days courtesy of the morning I spent redesigning the look of a front yard.  A sore rear is a pain for walking, but it provides a good reason to ask you husband for a little rub.  Except the rub may or may not work when it’s your husband because, let’s be honest, hands tend to stray away from the sore spot.

Fun stuff is always risky.  Anyway.  So after the rub that strayed, I asked him to get me some muscle rub.  It was initially a good idea, but I realized a second too late that we hadn’t let the rub escalate to other things since the door was way open and the percentage of children who were awake vs. children who were asleep was still too high.  So I had just signed my love life away for the evening.  That and I had a full bladder and couldn’t very well sit on the toilet until my rear dried.  I like my sleep, and I did not want to have a screaming child wake me up in the middle of the night when they realized that their rear was mysteriously odd feeling.  And I was too lazy to pee and then turn around and clean the seat.

Le sigh.  Life is hard.

I probably should have warned my new readers that I’m totally TMI.  Your options options are 1)  run screaming as you delete your subscription, 2) Try to save my soul by posting a meme on Facebook or elsewhere about what and what not to share and a) hope I see it and b) hope I give a damn, or 3)  Join the party.

Back to the google.  I told him I hadn’t and he went on to tell me about how it came up with all of my covers I’ve made for the book.  He may of said some other things, but I was fixated on the cover issue and possibly didn’t hear the rest.  Also, possibly, my husband claims that I don’t always listen to him.  He might actually have a case for that.

My covers are not great.  If you’ve known me long enough and think that my covers might be holding me back but you just don’t want to hurt my feelings….Well, I’m aware.  I do care, but as a mother who is trying to balance homeschooling 4 children and making books on a nonexistent budget and taking care of meals and home and all the stuff that comes with a family (as well as the addition this last year of trying to clean up a property…), I do what I can with what I have until I can do more.

I know it might come as a shocker to people, but I can’t do everything.  It annoys me, yes, but I’m sadly human.  Self publishing is hard work, and so I focus on getting better a little at a time.  My books have improved.  My covers have improved.  My sales pitch (Oh, Holy Eye Rolling) has improved.  My presence on the web has improved.  I’m doing okay.  It’s a slow burn kind of thing.

One of the things I have learned the last few years is the importance of being critical with your own work.  I’m not one of those writers who is fortunate enough to write an amazing book that everybody adores and reads and they have family members and friends read and write reviews and the stars shine and the angels sing and a productive writing career has been birthed with happy exclamations of joy and a cigar in the waiting room.  (This by the way, is not an attack.  It just is what it is.)

Nope, it was pretty much *cricket chirp, cricket chirp*

I did have a few people who read the book and believed in the ideas and enjoyed the characters.  I did have a small amount of feedback from random strangers around the web (I would kiss you if I could.  In my head, where introverts kiss people but don’t follow through, because…it’s the thought that counts.  Not really, but this is getting awkward…)

So after many days and months of me waiting around for people to provide feedback, I finally realized that I couldn’t wait around for people.  People are busy.  People are people.

I knew my book wasn’t perfect.  It was a first draft I had thrown down in the middle of unemployment and hard times.  (which seems to be a theme for me writing books.  I’ll write about it someday)  It was a pledge of hope for my family and for me.  It was a beginning.  Maybe a poor one, but I believe that good things can come out of poor beginnings.

I suspected that my book was very likely very average, but I wanted a writing career.  I needed a writing career.  And so I sat down and did what I had to do.  I became a harsh critic of my own work.

Some people will tell you not to be a critic of your own work because there will be plenty enough people to do that for you.  There’s truth in that because you do need to be your biggest supporter or you won’t last.  Maybe it’s my personality, but I like being both my own supporter and my own critic.  For me, being a critic of my work is part of being my biggest supporter.

(This meme is so true.  When I get interested in an idea, I pick it apart.  This comes off as negative to some, but for me, I’m just trying to make it work.  I want to hear your ideas and thoughts and dreams.  I want to hear all the inner garbage  and jewels, and wade through the depths of your soul.  But that’s one of the problems we INXs have to deal with, our depth and passion can be turn offs, even to other INXs.)

Looking critically at my work changed my life and my books for the better.

I changed the beginning because I did have a few brave people tell me that it felt too slow.  That they had to get through it to get to the better parts of the book.  I also changed the feel of the book.  I had written it for my kids, for writers say that you should write hard things for children.  I say BS.  Write hard things for adults.  We deserve to have some fun, too.  I changed some of the story because I needed the book to be a bit stronger.  It had to hold up 8 other books (at the time).

Is my first book better now?  Yep.  Is it wonderful?  I think it’s good.  I think it might still be average, just a bit better average.  I get better as I go, and it’s the growth that I’m interested in.  I will probably change up my covers soonish and add yet one more embarrassing cover to the slush of covers I’m collecting around my first book.  Do I care?  No, not anymore.  Mess ups make for good stories.

So, yes, I am a firm believer that criticizing your own work is a good thing.  Unless it happens to be bad for you, and that’s where you need to follow your path, not mine.  The thing about writing is that there are no set rules or guidelines.  You’ve got to try things.  Keep what works.  Discard what doesn’t.  Don’t be afraid to toss something that worked for you once, but no longer serves you.  Don’t be afraid to pick something up you discarded in the past.  Nobody sets your path but you.  Nobody.  Not even the greats, old or new.

It takes confidence to handle self criticism.  You have to know to know where to draw the line, lest you end up scraping your career with your own hand.  (Don’t do that!)  Criticism is a good kind of power if used correctly.  If you know your strengths and weaknesses, then nobody can use them against you.

I hope you have an awesome writing week!

Live Bravely
Love Strongly
Write Your Story
AEM

 

 

 

 

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