How To Get Away with Loathing Your Own Writing

Is it just me, or does anyone else absolutely hate the way they write?

It’s kind of like hearing your own voice for the first time. When you speak and you hear your voice coming out of your mouth, you start thinking that it sounds a certain way. It’s all a lie though. When you hear your voice in a recording, it sounds completely different.

Side note: I hate the sound of my voice. I think it sounds murky and dumb. I sound like I have marbles stuck in my cheeks 24/7.

The same concept applies to writing. When you first spill your words onto a page, it feels fantastic. The fast, free-flowing quality of writing contributes to this sensation. As your words fall into place, why shouldn’t you think that they make perfect sense?

Then comes the time when you reread what you’ve written, and gasp, it’s a nightmare! It’s like cringing yourself to death. Your sentences sound stupid, your word choice is lame, and your voice sounds whiny and immature.

I can’t even begin to tell you how often I’ve felt this way. (Well, actually, I can begin to tell you, technically speaking. That’s what this post is about. Telling you guys how much I hate my writing.)

I’m a fairly neurotic proofreader, so I reread everything I write in order to catch my mistakes. Catch these mistakes I do, and I also catch sight of my godawful, crappy writing.

And the truly sucky thing is that no matter how many times I revise a piece, I am never satisfied with the end result. I can only ever be marginally okay with what I get.

My sister is the one person who bolsters my spirits when it comes to my writing. She is my self-confidence.

Side note: She was pissed when she found out I named my blog The Below Average Blog. I thought that was a neat and unassuming name for something as potentially pretentious as a blog. She thought I was being down on myself for no reason.

But I have come to accept the fact that disliking my writing is a bit of a boon to me. I’ve said it countless times (to myself, in my head, and maybe on this blog a few times). Hating my writing pushes me to try and improve it (key word being “try”).

So if you, too, hate the way you write, just remember two things:

1) Your writing probably isn’t as bad as you think it is. Your self-loathing and self-deprecatory nature just makes anything that comes out of you look terrible. Odds are, given how many people exist on our planet, someone could read your writing and like it.

2) Hating your writing should only make it better. Unless you start spiraling into a depression. Though I have learned from books and TV shows that writers being depressed and alcoholics is a common enough thing, so at least you won’t be alone.

Then again, I’m a nobody writer with zero credentials to my name and therefore absolutely no credibility when it comes to giving writing advice, so maybe you shouldn’t listen to me.

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We Halt Your Regular Programming…

So, as some of you guys may or may not know, Game of Thrones officially starts this coming Sunday. Lately, I’ve been debating with myself on whether or not to devote entire posts to each episode as they come out.

The cons of this scenario all have to do with scheduling. I normally write my posts in advance and then set them to be published every four days. This way, I can write a bunch of posts during my free time, allowing me some breathing room when other work has me feeling hectic.

If I decided to do a weekly Game of Thrones review, for about the next month, my scheduling would be out of whack. I could either write my regular posts, scheduling them in advance, in addition to the Game of Thrones posts, or I could forego my regular posts in favor of the GoT ones once a week.

So basically, I’d either be overworked or lazy.

Honestly, I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do. But fuck it all. This is my bloggy thing, and I can do what I want with it.

Fair warning, my friends. Expect SPOILER-FILLED reviews for the final season of Game of Thrones in the next few weeks. You’ll figure out if I kept up with my other posts in the future, I guess. 😉

But rest assured, once Game of Thrones is over, I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled posts.

The Dubious Pleasure of Poetry

I have a love/hate relationship with poetry.

Let’s start with why I hate it.

The medium hasn’t always called to me. It’s always felt like the abstract expressionism of the literary world. (For those of you who don’t know, I have an abiding dislike for abstract expressionism. I can’t understand what those blocks of color have to do with art. There is no meaning behind a rectangle.) At times, poems can be beautiful. However, sometimes poems are just nonsense.

I once had to do an analysis on Emily Dickinson’s “I heard a Fly buzz–when I died,” and it was the strangest assignment I ever had. It’s a short poem, full of statements that I couldn’t understand, and themes made inscrutable by blunt words. I have since grown to appreciate the meaning the poem must have had for Dickinson, but when I was young, all I could think was, “What the actual fuck is this?”

I’ve tried my hand at writing poems, but I don’t think I’m any good. (For my latest Below Average attempt, check out this post over here!) I second-guess myself whenever I write anything that seems the least bit artsy-fartsy. Plus, I hate to come across as whiny, and I think poems have the tendency to bring that out in me. Poems are a great way to express yourself, but I’d hate for mine to turn into petulant, pre-teen-Amanda diary entries.

Now, let’s talk about why I love poems.

I adore the way my lips can form around succulent verses. Poems can be collections of the best, least-used words in your language. I don’t need to have rhymes everywhere, but a well-turned phrase gets my poetry boner going.

And I love mirroring that kind of word choice in poems of my own. I like gathering my favorite words together in a basket and then sprinkling them around the field that is a pen and paper.

Oof. I sound hoity-toity, don’t I?

My two, all-time favorite poems are “When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver and “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot. If you haven’t read them, I’ve included links that should take you straight to them.

I’ve been puzzling over whether to include poetry in this blog (since I had so much fun making my last one), but I’m still undecided.

What do you guys think? Should I give it a whirl? Or should I leave that hippie-dippie, touchy-feely stuff out of this blog?

The Creative Writing Class from Hell

I come from a teacher family.

My mom is a teacher, my dad was a teacher, my tia (aunt) is a teacher, and my sister is a teacher. For a large portion of my early life, I even thought I was going to be a teacher myself when I grew up. But then my sister slapped me upside the head (figuratively speaking) and made me realize that I was more passionate about writing than teaching, so now here we are.

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is so you know I have an abiding respect for the teaching profession. I know about the trials teachers have to endure on a daily basis. I think teachers are severely underappreciated for what they give to society as a whole. I know what things are like from a teacher’s perspective.

So when I say my college creative writing class sucked eggs, you know I’m not being irrational and biased against my teacher or something like that. I am aware that there is a person behind the profession.

Maybe the awfulness of that class hit me especially hard because of how much I had been looking forward to it. I had never taken a creative writing class before. From the very title of the course, it sounded like something right up my alley. I went into that class feckin’ eager to learn. I didn’t need to take the creative writing class; I wanted to take it.

Knowing how much I adore writing, you can all probably imagine my disappointment when it turned out less than perfect.

Never have I been so goddamned bored in a class.

My teacher, who I shall call the Sedate Droner, had the most pedantic tone of voice I have ever heard a person use. Even when he expressed enthusiasm for a topic, which felt rare, I had to study his expression more closely than a Where’s Waldo page in order to discern the slightest hints of excitement.

I think his eyes had an inability to light up with joy.

For Harry Potter fans out there, he was basically Professor Binns.

The Sedate Droner decided to start off the semester with poetry. He had a fondness for modern poetry, especially the kind that does not have a set rhyme scheme. Free-form poetry was his jam.

Now, I don’t have a problem with that normally, but he would spend hours trying to dissect these poems, line by line. Again, I normally don’t have a problem with examining the nuances of poetry. But if you’re taking up to three hours analyzing a single poem (without contribution from other people), a poem can lose its sweetness.

The Sedate Droner also had a tendency to answer his own questions. He would pose a query to the entire class, and when no one was particularly forthcoming, as lax/nervous college-age students tend not to be, he would provide an answer himself. The class consisted of awkward pauses as the Sedate Droner waited for someone to speak before eventually supplying his own ponderous response.

When we eventually did move on to writing short stories, something I had been looking forward to doing in an academic setting for the longest time, it was more of the same. The only difference this time around was that instead of going over contemporary poems, we analyzed our own works.

Nothing spices up a class like having students read their own work out loud.

If only.

I never felt so morose about being creative than when I was in that class. I got so bored, I started making up little games to keep myself occupied during class. I called one of them the Jurassic Park Game. If one of my desk mates had a bottle of water on their desk, I would tap my foot against the legs of the desk rhythmically, causing the water in the bottle to tremble a la Jurassic Park’s T. Rex footsteps.

But in a strange way, that class did prepare me for writing in the work place. There have been times when writing has felt like an absolute drudgery to me, but thanks to this creative writing class from hell, I am able to power through it.

I was steeped in the boredom of that class, tempered by the fires of apathy, struck with ennui until I was perfectly formed to withstand the writing-malaise later on.

Because while I may have a passion for writing, it’s still work. I’ve always kind of hated it when people say, “If you love what you’ll do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I know what they’re trying to say. But they’re wrong. Even if you love what you do, there will be days where it takes a lot of energy out of you or when you just don’t want to do it.

But if you love it, you’ll come back to it.

The Wussiness and Bad-Assery of Writing

Currently, I’m a nobody when it comes to writing.

No one knows my name. No one quotes my phrases (not that I have any). No one cares what I have to say.

(Well, generally speaking, at least. I’m pretty sure my mom knows my name.)

I have a heightened awareness of my insignificance.

Anyone who wants to be a writer for fame definitely picked the wrong vocation.

Luckily/Unluckily for me, I want to be a writer because it’s what I love to do. I love picking words from a vast collection and stringing them together into meaningful sentences. I like creating entire worlds with only 26 letters. I enjoy telling stories that people may or may not want to hear.

So I’ve at least got that part of writing down.

But as the years go by, I find myself yearning for my words to be read by other people. And as the years go by, the rejection from agents and publishers gets harder and harder to bear.

I’m still trying to get published. I’m not saying that I’ve given up. (Plus, there’s something to be said for being an actual struggling writer.)

But let’s just say I have down days. Everyone has down days. I’m not alone in that.

Anyway, during a particularly rough down day, I started thinking about two qualities writers should have that are completely at odds with each other.

On the one hand, writers should be giant puddles of wussiness, like crybaby-extraordinaires, and on the other, they have to be steel-eyed bad-asses.

The sensitivity and low self-esteem that writers can have are a boon. You feel things more deeply when you’re a mess of emotions. It helps, believe it or not. I think all good writers should have a current of empathy at their cores. Obviously, I’m exaggerating when I use the term “wussiness,” but you know what I mean. The ability to be down-on-your-luck-and-mopey allows writers to connect with other people’s situations. And that’s integral when it comes to story-telling.

But at the same time, writers have to be able to take those knocks that come with rejection and get back up again. They have to be like Captain America before he got all Super-Soldiered. It takes a certain level of Clint Eastwood-toughness to be told, “This work that you have poured years of time, effort, and ink into is not worth anything,” and still keep trying to prove its value. If that’s not the definition of bad-ass, then I don’t know what is.

Side note: Bad-ass (adj.): To be of or close to attaining the level of holy-freakin’ awesomeness that is a mix of a Pacific Rim Jaeger, Master Chief, and Darth Maul.

So that’s all for now. Was just thinking about those kinds of things. Catch you guys later!

Only Cool Kids Edit

I know a lot of writers.

Scratch that. I know a lot of people who call themselves writers.

And one thing I’ve noticed that really burns my bum is the fact that they don’t edit their work.

They think that as soon as they’ve committed a word to a page, it’s golden and perfect.

No.

Just no.

Anyone who loves to write with a true passion knows that writing is mutable. Your words, your phrasing, can and will change. They have to.

Writing is half creation, half revision.

I’ll admit, I’m kind of talking out of my own ass here. I’m only a semi-published freelance writer who knows less than Jon Snow, but I’m also talking from the perspective of a proofreader. I have proofread and edited more written works than I’ve got years on my life. Hell, even this blog here gets proofread more than it deserves.

So I hate it when someone writes a piece and then takes pride in how little they had to edit it. I want to grab them, shake them, and scream in their faces, “That’s not a badge of honor! That’s a warning sign!”

Even more than writing words, editing those words is the most important part of the writing process. I say/write that with the assumption that you are writing things for someone else to read. You edit your words for your readers. You should always think to yourself, ‘What sounds better when I say it out loud? Does this make any sense? Is any of this intelligible? Could this be better?’

My favorite kinds of writers are those who question themselves constantly. Any person who writes something, frowns in dismay after reading it, and whose first impulse is to throw it in the trash, is a friend of mine.

It’s not just a quality I admire in writers. It’s a quality I admire in people. The desire to constantly improve is praiseworthy. (Plus, self-deprecating humor is the best.)

So to any aspiring writers who are reading this, always try to edit your work. Actively search for aspects to improve. Writing is a climb, and you always want to be moving upwards.

Editing can be as basic as just re-reading things you’ve already written. I’ve proofread so many academic essays where I know in my gut the kids just typed it, printed it, and then submitted it. You’d be surprised how much a simple read-through could help your writing.

For me, editing takes multiple stages, but each stage can be boiled down to two types of editing: big and small.

Big editing is looking to change the meaning and structure of an entire piece. For instance, if I was writing a novel, a big edit would be adjusting some plot points or moving around chapters to better suit the flow.

Small editing brings my focus down to individual sentences. Could something be phrased better? Is a word sticking in my craw whenever I read the sentence out loud? I think about the minutiae when I do my small editing.

I do my editing best when it is on paper in front of me. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of editing on a computer screen, which is a shame because that’s definitely the norm nowadays. Reading my words out loud always helps too.

Editing is not fun. No one in the history of ever has said that editing is fun. But it is necessary, and there is nothing like the feeling of finishing up some much-needed proofing.

Of course, if you’re doing it right, you always kind of feel like just a little more should be done. So if you think about it, you never feel as if you’re finished.

Hey, no one ever said writing was easy either.