So there’s that thing that people always say about going into the arts: it’s subjective. That’s absolutely true, but often they’ll suggest that there are NO RULES that determine if you’re good or not. That’s why it’s so hard to be in the arts, they’ll say. I don’t really buy the second part.
Sure there are rules or ways to do certain things better. I’m all for helping others improve their work. There is always something you can do to improve your characters, plot, setting, and pacing. There are so many resources in books and online that can help you look at your stories and see what you can make better. This can change your writing life and power your prose.
Yet even with all this, isn’t it discouraging to create sometimes? We are so lucky we get the opportunity to even try to translate our ideas into the page, but it’s so easy to get bogged down when we’re confused about what is deemed “good” or “not good.”
If you’re floundering for ways to get out of this cycle, here are some ideas for how to survive subjectivity in the depths of your creative process.
Know That Rules Are There To Help You, Not Hurt You
You’ve probably heard that great writers can break all the rules, right? It may or may not be true, depending on what you like, but trying to throw all rules out the door right when you start may not work. It might seem counterintuitive, but put some bounds on your work. Whether that’s a time constraint, word count, or stylistic tick, stay strong and stick to it.
Know Your Audience
You don’t need to know exactly what you’re doing right out of the gate, but why not think about what you want your end product to be? That may greatly vary by your school of writing. What I mean by that is only that books read very differently. This can depend on the section of the bookstore you like to prowl, and can even vary from author to author. Don’t be held in if you think there’s something to explore, but consider your reader’s expectations so you can write a story they’ll be sure to love. Identify this and you can either subvert the expectation or do what’s expected really well.
Know The Advice of Writers Who Came Before You
Among some of these resources I mentioned earlier are craft essays by famous writers. Those posts can be super helpful, and it’s great to hear from people who have spent more time at writing than we have. It’s just as they say: every author was once an amateur. Absorb their fiction and read craft books.
Know That You’re Special, But So Is Everyone Else
Who are we to tear each other down when we could empower one another to create stories that make us and others better? Too many times, I’ve seen negativity play out in the form of berating other people’s work. It’s endlessly frustrating to see people look down upon entire genres. I don’t claim every book is good, but I believe in everyone’s right to write. (See what I did there?)
Know That You Could Make a Difference
I don’t believe in trying to moralize stories. It seems like fiction works itself out more when you simply write it and then see what the story has to offer your readers. There’s something really beautiful about this. Not everyone will love your story, but it could change someone’s life. Write by your standards, and make sure they are the highest. Create something that you’re proud of and that you stand by.
Published or not, is it really a worthy argument to ask ourselves whether we are “real” writers? Wouldn’t it just be a better use of our time to write and get better with every story we write? We shouldn’t deprive ourselves or others the chance to create because we feel the need to be perfect.
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