Let’s be honest, hating your work takes a toll.
So you spent days, weeks, even months or years, on a piece of writing. You edited and rewrote. You spent hours trying to get everything just right, and finally, you feel comfortable with it, enough to send it out to that literary journal or press for someone to look at. Congratulations! Your piece was accepted. You’re now on your way to having another published feather in your cap. Then the finished product appears. The last edits are done and you stare at your screen or paper and read your name.
Suddenly, everything you’ve written is bad. There’s no other way to describe it. Nothing you enjoyed during the writing process seems to shine when you’re reading it now. All you see are your shortcomings. How could someone think to publish this? Did I really think it was good at one point? In short, you’re not a fan of your published piece anymore, but now it’s out in front of the world.
Many writers have expressed this same sentiment, some even with their best-known and most beloved works. But how do you shake off the negativity and move on? How do you publish more work without experiencing embarrassment afterward? Take a look below at where this mindset comes from and what to do about it.
Believing everything about your work is bad takes a toll on your writing AND you. When you look back and feel embarrassed at what you did, you don’t see what you did as an accomplishment. This mindset affects your writing because it puts you at a standstill. After all, how do you keep writing when things go south every time you publish something? How can you call yourself a writer when the work you put out doesn’t even meet your own standards, let alone the standards for “good” writing that you hear so much about?
There’s a few things you can do to combat this. On the one hand, you should remember to keep pushing forward and don’t give up. On the other, remember:
1) Someone else liked it. If someone cared enough about what you wrote to publish it, then that says something! That also means that if someone liked it enough to publish it, others will likely enjoy reading it. Writing (like all art) is subjective. Not everyone, throughout your entire career, will like your writing. But many will. And if they get a front-row seat to the progress you make, then that’s even better.
2) Constantly looking back doesn’t help you. Hating your work only holds you back in the long run. Your writing isn’t always going to be perfect. It might never even meet your standards at all. But like any mistake, keeping yourself in the past doesn’t let you move forward. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, then let it go. It happened and you can’t change it. So what do you do when you need to move forward? Get back to writing.
A lot of negativity comes from hating your work. There’s a lot of ways that buying into this mentality can hold you back and give you tons of self-doubt. BUT “hating” (or at the very least disliking) your work at some time or another can be turned into a good thing if you know what to do.
Philip Pullman (author of His Dark Materials) is a great example of this. His first book The Haunted Storm was just that, his first book. And looking back, Pullman (and other people!) described how it wasn’t very good. But he pushed past it and wrote more, and the rest, as they say, is history.
So even if you have actual cause to hate your writing, remember to do the following to turn it into a good thing:
1) Recognizing your early work as a stepping stone. Writing is like climbing a mountain. The more you write, the more you advance. The higher up on the mountain you get. Your early work acts as one of the many stepping stones you need to take to get to where you need to be. And if there’s a misstep along the way, it’s not the end of the world.
2) Know you are not your work. Writers with self-doubt need to remember this. You are more than just your work. Even if something you wrote probably isn’t very good, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically a terrible writer or that you yourself are someone unworthy to be called a writer. You created something, and that alone is a big accomplishment. Be sure to separate the two.
You can’t predict when these ideas will reappear. It might be something that you struggle with through most or even all of your writing career, and that’s fine! The important thing is that you know how to handle it and where to redirect that negative mindset. So what do you do when you start to believe that you hate your writing?
1) Remember you’re improving. When you begin hating your work, remember writing is a process. No fairy godmother is going to swoop down, wave her magic wand, and poof! you’re the next Shakespeare. But that’s not an excuse to just give up and believe you’ll never “make it.” When you develop as a writer, you practice, and the more you practice the more you improve. It can be frustrating when you struggle with a specific weakness in your writing, and it’s definitely hard when you never seem to meet your expectations. But improving means you’re heading in the right direction!
2) Analyze your strengths. Don’t just focus on your (supposed) weaknesses. There’s a difference between recognizing where you can improve and being upset at a mistake you made in the past. Take a look at your past work. What do you like about it when you reread it? What have you learned since then? Writing is a career, and it’s a career where you constantly improve. Every writer struggles with something. Be it description or grammar or anything in between. So check out what you believe you’re good at and what isn’t quite there yet. You might be surprised.
3) Keep moving forward. A great writer needs to start somewhere. That “somewhere” just happens to be a place that’s not a New York Times bestseller, Nobel Prize-winning good. So when you look back at where you’ve been, everything looks bad in comparison to where you’re going and what you accomplished. However, that doesn’t mean everything you’ve written or will write will ALWAYS be bad. It might just be bad for YOU anyway. If you focus on the past, you won’t have a future to write for.
Additionally, all writers need practice because writing is a skill. Yes, there’s talent involved, but having writing talent doesn’t mean you don’t have any writing weaknesses. We all need to work on refining our work. If we remain stagnant, our writing suffers, and we risk losing the strengths we developed over time.
Having writing talent doesn’t mean you don’t have any writing weaknesses.Tweet
It’s tempting to give up. Lots of writers did and still do. But writing is a mountain, one that must always keep climbing. That’s what writers sign up for when they set out to write anyway. Writing isn’t something one can completely master. Rather, it’s a growing and changing art that you need to learn as much about as possible. In the end, all you can do is get back to writing.
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