To start with, I have never been a fan of being a “people pleaser.” Catering to the desires of others – especially desires of what they think I should be, do, or say – has never appealed to me on any level. It’s fake. It’s awful. It’s atrocious. I am who I am, and no one can change that. What does this have to do with writing? Let me open a few cans of worms.
1. I can’t stand the idea of writing to reach a specific audience. Will young millenials – a term I utterly despise – sit themselves down long enough to enjoy anything I write? To quote whatshisname from Gone with the Wind, “Quite frankly… I don’t give a damn.”* I don’t write for anyone in particular. I just write, because I can’t not write.
2. Writing contests make my skin crawl. I like the idea of getting money for writing, but I turn into a Nervous Nelly at the thought of the requirements. Wordcount limits, required subject matter, etc., and then there’s the possibility that I might not have rights to the piece after they get ahold of it… I’ll put it this way – Most of what I write feels like a child I’ve raised from birth. If I no longer have the rights to do with it what I please (even a short piece), it limits me considerably. Oftentimes, short excerpts that have nothing to do with anything else sneak their way into longer writings – usually months or even years down the road (and, in some cases, decades).
3. I hate unsolicited line edits. Yes, I hate them. Receiving them is like dressing up in something really pretty, then having someone point out a zit on your face. I know my work is not perfect. If I want deep criticism and word choice advice, I’ll ask for it. In the meantime, get over it. Of course, if I have something utterly silly like “the the” in there, please point it out.
4. My characters are who they are. I don’t necessarily control them. They will fly off the handle, say off the wall stuff, chase after squirrels,** and get flustered when they have to walk through a room full of spiderwebs. I can try to change who they are and what they do, but when I do that, it brings about the biggest writers’ blocks I’ve ever had to deal with.
5. I don’t care about tropes or about avoiding them. If I tried to make sure I wasn’t writing something that had already been written before, I’d be lying to myself. As Solomon once wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Until you get this, you will forever be looking over your shoulder for the Trope Police. Just write the thing. Worry about originality later –– much later.
6. Never ask me to write anything specific. Just don’t. It’s another pet peeve, another writing block, etc. Also, do not ask me to copy anyone else in any way, shape, or form. I will glare at you, and possibly write you into one of my stories –– which could be good or bad.
7. Don’t be surprised if you ask me what I’m writing and I don’t have an answer. I should, I know, but I often have no way to put it into coherent language. I just write. Period.
8. Please, please, please don’t try to “ship” any of my characters (aka – hook them up). I will immediately stop sharing my writing with you, or kill one of them off just to spite you. Seriously. Just don’t do it. It’s tacky and annoying. Keep your shipping suggestions to yourself, and everyone will stay happy. Who knows? I might already have plans for it, and just don’t want you to know.***
9. I follow the characters I choose to follow (or rather, the ones who drag me into their lives). Some of the others just don’t open up to me. If you have issue with that, I’m not apologizing. You’re not writing the story –– I am.
10. I don’t care what Freud or any other psychologist, phsychotherapist, etc., has to say about this behaviour or that. Don’t get too analytical. It totally turns me off. And remember: There is no way I’d ever take Freud seriously. Ever.
All that to say: Don’t crimp my style, and let your criticism be truly constructive. Drop all expectations, and get to know my work before you rip it to shreds –– and I will do the same for you, should you trust me to read your writing. I will find as much good in it as I can. It is, after all, like your own child. You can’t say to a mother, “Your child is ugly.”**** It’s just plain rude.
Thanks for letting me get all that off my chest… Hope I didn’t scare you off. 😉
*Probably the only detail from that film that I actually loved. Apologies to anyone who loves that movie – it’s simply not my favorite.
**This only happened once in my writing, and there were mitigating circumstances.
***There is one exception to this: If you are my writing buddy, and have read a substantial amount of my work, you are allowed to make such suggestions. Otherwise, don’t bother.
****I mean, you can, but I don’t recommend it.