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Beliefs About Writing, Revised

November 4, 2013

Photo Credit: sausyn via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: sausyn via Compfight cc

Several years ago, I created a list of my beliefs about writing. We hold beliefs that affect our writing, whether we are conscious of those beliefs or not. Some beliefs hinder us and some help. I created the list so  I could become more aware of how my beliefs affect my writing process. It has become my habit to revisit and revise the list every year or so.

Here is some of what I believe about writing now. Some of my beliefs are tested and smart. Some are pure neurosis.

  1. Showing up to do the work—fully present and open to possibility—is the hardest part of writing.
  2. Writing is about layering on, then taking away, layering on, then taking away.
  3. No one gets it right the first time.
  4. Don’t get stuck in an idea when another one is trying to happen.
  5. I will always be learning to write.
  6. Make a mess. you can always clean it up later.
  7. Listen to the beta reader’s critique, but make your own decisions..
  8. I am always proving my inner critic wrong, but that doesn’t make it go away.
  9. Creation is painful. Revision is a blast.
  10. When I read something great, I think: That’s writing. What am I doing?
  11. Reading work out loud is a good way to detect errors, tangles, and crap.
  12. Laughing out loud while writing is good, even if it’s not during the funny parts.
  13. My standards are higher than my abilities will ever allow me to reach.
  14. My best writing happens when I’m not thinking about it.
  15. I remain cautious about sharing my work in early draft. It’s fragile then, and so am I.
  16. There is always a nugget of truth in every criticism.
  17. Time slows down painfully while you wait for someone to read your work.
  18. I am kinder to other writers than I am to myself.
  19. No one else can write the story I can write.
  20. All I can do is write it to the best of my ability and let it go.
  21. I’m a better writer than I used to be.
  22. Writing is not a social activity,  but writer-friends are necessary.
  23. I need to have patience with the writing process and compassion for myself.

Whenever I revisit and revise my list, I notice how my beliefs have changed. By being more mindful of them, the beliefs that hindered me have tended to go away or at least lose some of their power over me. Some  self-defeating ones do linger. (I am human.)  But there are fewer of those than there used to be. And while they still nag at me at the worst possible times, I’ve gotten much better about ignoring them.

What beliefs do you hold about writing? Which ones help you? Hinder you?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.

120911-MAD-100Mary Ann de Stefano is the editor of The Florida Writer, the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association. She is also a writer, editor, and organizer of writing workshops with 30 years of experience in publishing and writing consulting. Besides working one-on-one with writers who are developing books, she builds websites and advises on e-marketing. Mary Ann does business at MAD about Words, named as a play on her initials and love for writing.

  1. November 4, 2013 8:11 am

    Thank you, Mary Ann. Your observations are wonderful.

    • Mary Ann de Stefano permalink*
      November 4, 2013 9:00 pm

      Thanks, Joanne!

  2. November 4, 2013 9:48 am

    Hey Mary Ann, I’m printing out your list and then I’ll create my own. This message is very timely for me today. 🙂 I’m working on something I was very enthusiastic about ,and, of course, thought it was great. Now that it’s almost done, I’m think it’s so NOT great. Second guessing which stories are “worth” finishing. One of the things on my list is #15. Many times I’ve shown my work too early, and when the reader doesn’t rave about a certain paragraph (the way I expected), I start thinking maybe it’s an average paragraph 🙂 I have a question as well–does anyone else cry out loud when writing?

    • Mary Ann de Stefano permalink*
      November 4, 2013 9:05 pm

      Hi Fran, Yes to crying. It happens when I surprise myself by writing something that stirs an old memory or feeling.

  3. Elizabeth Ressler permalink
    November 4, 2013 2:38 pm

    What? Me worry? OF COURSE! I just hit the Post Comment button on Chris Hamilton’s blog a minute before reading Mary Ann’s Belief #20. Then, I opened my email Quote of the Day to read, “Instead of worrying about what people say of you, why not spend time trying to accomplish something they will admire.” by Dale Carneige.

    Chris Hamilton’s blog urges me to write and Mary Ann’s Belief List, which has been gleaned over the years, conveys great wisdom worth exchanging for defective ones of my own; and Dale Carneige’s quote comes with the added flavor of his known accomplishments in life.

    Advice well taken. Thanks.

    And, NO, Fran. I don’t cry. I fret about what others will think. I’m a #20–I get too caught up in details (words) and am writing (trying) to correct this by Leaving a Reply in Comments to help me move up the skill ladder. By writing a post comment for this blog, I am making a commitment to write as well as I can and let it go.

    Like you, I am a #15. I would let family and friends read my work…dwelling on their face as they were reading; hoping to gauge a like/dislike by looking for a smile, as indicated by your 2 smiley face sentences. This works well in person, but now I know I have to use a public reading format as the next step to get better, let it go, and get back to writing until it takes me into a final draft.

    This blog is where I practice. I take time to compose, edit, and send. It takes a lot of time and gives satisfaction to see it done based on Belief List #5. Thanks for posting:)

  4. Mary Ann de Stefano permalink*
    November 4, 2013 9:09 pm

    Hi Elizabeth, You are not alone in fretting about what others will think!

  5. November 5, 2013 5:02 pm

    Number 17 is definitely true. Waiting on feedback is a killer. Great article. Thanks!

  6. November 5, 2013 7:03 pm

    Thanks for these, Mary Ann. I’m just getting back some beta reader comments (for my first novel), and your point on that helped me. It’s also proving the process to be very tedious and long. I’m ready to move on from this novel, it’s been years already. So, patience is one I have to remember.

  7. Elizabeth Ressler permalink
    November 10, 2013 2:06 pm

    Thank You FRAN & MARY ANN & CHRIS,

    I experienced MY FIRST WRITING TEARS!

    They began after I stopped writing on my iPad, got up to kiss my hubby goodbye for the day, returned to a sleeping monitor, tapped the screen to awake, and could not find my computer file. It was gone and only replaced with the emotional touch of TEARS.

    It all happened the day Chris Hamilton wrote his SHE-HULK blog. I used it, along with his visuals, as my jumping-off point for a writing exercise. She-Hulk and Friends provided the perfect “push” to create a character of my own. My She-Hulk, however, would be disguised in the form of a “non-human” with words to give it lusty line and flowing form while sitting in powerful and shifting waters of its own, showing another side to fantasy of femine beauty.

    Looking at, and writing about, an image of a yacht sailing on San Francisco Bay that my son sent me, I created a femine SHE-HULL character called MYJOY that effects LOVE and STRONG DESIRE within the male (female) ego. However, my “original” Computer-File Character is too hard a job to “reincarnate” knowing in reality how things (boats and books) are produced and lost with or without the ability to make an identical item–well, almost, but not quite like rewriting without an original draft to edit.

    Feeling my very own first writing tears and the swing of emotions it caused, I now believe they come with a core purpose. Wet and wild, soft and caring, honest and helpful, they are the stem of strong feelings of joy and sorrow.

    I have interpreted my writing tears to be the release valve that didn’t allow me (the vessel) to explode and sink. My tears also put another befief, one shared and passed on to me by a book artist, and one I need to follow which I didn’t with MYJOY: Don’t Fall in Love With It. Keep it a work-in-progress that you can LOVE when it’s DONE.

    Thanks, Fran for questioning tears; Mary Ann for posting beliefs; and Chris for inspiring POV w/illustrations.

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