Getting Defensive Over Your Writing Isn’t Always Bad

I’ve been revising my work. I haven’t written anything “new” in weeks, and I’ve noticed my brain switching from one kind of thinking to another. I like this switch because it’s a break from drafting. As I’ve said before, drafting exhausts me. On the other hand, revising, for me, always means I’m dealing with some sort of feedback from others, and feedback always means shifting into defensive mode. I’m sure my betas would tell you I don’t actually get defensive with them, but I do get defensive in my head. This can occur even without feedback. That familiar battle:

Oh my gosh, this book sucks. Everything I’ve ever written sucks. No, it doesn’t suck! Have a little self-respect, would you?

How did I miss these plot holes! I’m so stupid. You are not stupid. If you say that one more time I’ll break your arm. And both your legs.

I can’t possibly revise this beast one more time. It’s good enough now. No it’s not. No work is ever done until you turn the final edits into your editor. You know this. Duh.

So the battle rages on and I revise page after page after page. This can, sadly, go on for years. Defensive mode can be a comfortable battle, one in which I feel empty without its presence. Being always happy with my work is boring. Being too confident is egotistical. I’ve got to keep pushing myself down to be a real writer. Right?

Tell Yourself You Suck

As much as I think it’s wrong to dog on your work all the time, I do think it’s a necessary step to grow. No completely 100% confident person has always been completely 100% confident. Allow the doubt to creep in. Wage a war. Let yourself land into a deep dark pit of doubt and despair and see the light up above.

And Then Get Out Of There

Yep, climb out. Fight your way out. Grow. Learn. And don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up.

Nick made it clear in the comments that there’s a difference between beating ourselves up and beating up our work. I agree. What I’m mostly talking about here is being critical of your own work. Mostly, I’m saying give yourself permission to suck and get upset about it. A lot of what I write is never seen by any alpha or beta reader. A lot of it gets deleted into the abyss because I’m learning faster how to recognize what sucks. Still, it’s the recognition that counts, and that almost always includes waging a little battle. Celebrate the fight. Let it happen, and march on to victory where there will likely be another battle in a few days. Opposition is, after all, how we grow, and I suppose if you keep losing the battles you probably aren’t cut out to be a writer. I’m convinced it’s a violent career, no matter what anyone else says.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

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