Thursday, May 14, 2009

You are NOT Your Writing

I was inspired to write this post from Nathan Bransford’s post about not letting writing define you. I wholeheartedly agree. I used to define myself by the work I was doing. When I became a teacher, I was thrilled. My job meant everything to me, and anything that threatened my position would cause me to sink into depression. Every “see me” from the principal of the school where I was working might as well have been a pink slip. It came to the point where the fear of losing my job became all encompassing. Then I realized something very important. I was tying my whole identity and self-worth into my job. My job defined me. Without it, who was I?

I see this same thing happening to some writers. In fact, I felt this way when I finished my novel. I entered a small tidbit into a Drop the Needle contest on Miss Snark’s First Victim. Of course, I had no business doing this because my novel is only a first draft! What did I expect? Well the outcome wasn’t good. It makes me laugh now because I have grown so much since that time. Seriously, too funny! After the contest I was crushed, and now I know why. Once again I was putting my self-worth into something that I had no business putting it into.

Your job and your writing are transitory, meaning they come and go. Change is inevitable. If you tie your self-worth into transitory things, it will also come and go. Self-worth may change and grow as we change and grow, but it should be tied to only one thing, you. Perhaps this may be the key to acceptance when something doesn’t work out the way you want it to. Usually when things don’t work out, your higher power is sending you in another direction.

Having said this, I think publishing is a good goal but not the ultimate goal. I put a lot of work into my novel, and I plan to put a lot more work into it. What if it doesn’t get published after I put all of that work into it? Well, I will ask myself what I got out of the process, or what did I learn? Perhaps that is the ultimate goal… the experience, the learning, the life lessons. I have learned so much already, especially from all of you.

This brings me to critiques. A critique, good or bad, is a gift. They help you grow and develop into what we all desire to be…good writers. I always hear successful writers say how the harshest advice they had ever received helped them grow leaps and bounds. Think about it, sometimes rejection puts us back on the right path. It sent me to grad school! Perhaps if we don’t define ourselves by our writing, it might be easier to stomach harsh critiques and rejection. In the end, your book is not YOU.

I know, harder said than done, but think about it. If a book doesn’t work… you learned something. It was worth your while. Now, move on and write another one. You won’t get anywhere by quitting.


The Screaming Guppy said...

Very true. Hard words about your writing are never attacks at you personally. :)


word verfication: pasta <-- I swear!

Litgirl01 said...

Guppy - If you said the word verification was cheesecake, I would definitely NOT believe you. Pasta...I believe!! LMAO

beth said...


And a lesson that is really really really hard to learn.

I'm not sure I've learned it yet, really. I mean, I KNOW what you've said is the truth...but I don't know if I really believe it.

Scott said...

I can't argue with brilliance . . . in the poster and the commenters.

Writing is a part of who I am, it is not who I am. I am many things all jumbled together in a collage called Scott. Some of those things are good, some are bad, but they all seem to even out in the end. At least I hope they even out in the end.

Thanks for your truly thought provoking post.


Litgirl01 said...

Beth - I know exactly what you mean. We know it intellectually, but it's hard to join the heart and the mind.

Scott- That is a very healthy way to be! :-)

lotusgirl said...

Intellectually I know that you are right, but sometimes it is hard for my heart to come to grips with it.

Nisa said...

There's a lot of wisdom in this post. I enjoyed reading it and agree wholeheartedly. While being published would be great, I'm just happy that I am accomplishing so much! And having a book for friends and family to read? How cool will that be!

Cindy said...

Thanks for the post. I remember a time when I used to say that I wanted people to know me as a writer. I was used to being called a mother (and being defined by that) so I wanted to be called a writer. I am trying to learn to just enjoy being called Cindy and appreciate all the wonderful things that come with it.

Samantha Elliott said...

Perfectly said! You are you, and what you do is what you do. That's it. And it helps to remember that.

Great post!

Word verification: undeedit (Is the universe trying to tell us something?)

Litgirl01 said...

Lois - I know exactly what you are saying. I feel the same. :-)

Nisa - Very cool! I have thought about that too! Let's face it, writing a novel is a huge accomplishment.

Cindy - That's awesome and a very good outlook to have! And...we are VERY happy that you reached the publishing goal! Here's to many more!

Samantha - LOL about the word verification. They can be so telling sometimes! he he

dellgirl said...

I hope I remember this when I get negative critiques, I hope I can use it to strengthen weaknesses. Learning not to take everything personally is new for me, something I picked up after I started blogging last year. Thanks for the advice, it makes so much sense.

Martin Willoughby said...

It took me 20 odd years (some of them extremely odd) to realise that I and my work are different.

I enjoy what I do, but it doesn't define me: I define my writing.

Eric said...

Great insightful post. I won't reiterate what so many other commentors have said, but you've writting some good information here. Thanks for sharing.

Danyelle said...

I agree. It's always a dangerous thing when a person narrows the definition of themselves into one word. People are so much more than that. Writing is a part of me, a very important part, but not all of me. I really like what you said about tying your self worth to anything other than yourself. Very nice!

Robyn said...

The harder the better! It's the rejections that are so hard to take, for me. I know they're not directed at me personally but...

Lady Glamis said...

I love love love love this post! It's EXACTLY how I feel. Of course, me and you always think alike.

I knew that when I gave you feedback on your novel I wouldn't have to worry about being honest. You have so much potential, and you know what it takes to grow and get better.

I've received some really harsh feedback, and I was surprised at how well I was able to take it. After awhile, it just gets to the point where you think, "Bring it on! The harsher the better!" As long as it's genuine from the reader.

This is a hard business. Sometimes we need a break, and sometimes we just have to plow through. You always know I'm here when you need. :)

Litgirl01 said...

Dell - the goal is to improve, and there is now way to do that without hearing what we don't want to hear sometimes. ;-)

Martin - I like are absolutely right! :-)

Eric - thank you so much! :-)

Danyelle - Yes! It is has caused me a lot of undue grief in the past.

Robyn - Rejection is very hard for everyone. Nothing can really make it easier. However, we should keep in mind that we are valuable and nothing can change that! :-)

Glam - I'm glad you like the post! :-) Something I feel passionate about lately. I appreciate your critique more that you will ever know! I would rather grow and learn than be stagnant with fear of rejection and criticism. :-D

Ann Victor said...

An excellent post LitGirl; sorry I missed the discussion! This is one of my biggest struggles: separating my writing/career from my sense of self-identity and self-worth. Thankfully, I've grown a lot as a writer and a person since I first started and sometimes I think I'm managing to be both writer and Self.

Litgirl01 said...

Ann - that's fabulous that you can separate the two. It's just much healthier that way! :-)