WRITING: Love Your Writing

“The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising (“but of course that’s why he was doing that, and that means that…”) and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.” – Neil Gaiman

One thing nobody says is that it’s okay to love your writing.

So, here goes: It’s okay to love your writing. Honestly. I mean that. Without disclaimer, you are allowed to love what you’ve created. Unabashedly and without downplaying it or peppering it “but”s.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the opposite: that it’s okay that you hate your writing. Don’t worry, they say, I hate my writing too. All real writers hate their writing, because their standards are too high and they’re artists and nothing’s ever perfect and– the list goes on and on. To the point, sometimes, where it feels like if you don’t hate your writing, then maybe you should.

Nobody will tell everyone else that it’s okay if you love your writing, and nobody – for fear of not being humble enough, for fear of being called out as not a real writer – will publicly say they love their own writing. It’s an extension of Imposter Syndrome: Everyone’s afraid that if they let on that they’re enjoying themselves, everyone will realise it’s not real work and take their writing away somehow.

So let me start: I love my writing, and it’s okay for you to love yours too.

I love my characters. Not always, not every time; that’s usually how I know whether to forge on with a project or drop it, is if the characters feel real to me. But on a project I’m into, I love those characters. Even when they do terrible things, I understand and root for them. Even my villains, usually, though I tend against having those. Antagonists, yes, but rarely villains. I want to spend as much time with them as possible, and when I finish a piece, I want to return to them. With pilots, this urge is wise. With features, it leads to many clingy, unneeded sequel ideas I eventually discard. I don’t love all of them, and sometimes they threaten to overturn an entire script when they refuse to shine. But sometimes, I love my characters.

I love my dialogue. Far from all of it. Sometimes I miss the mark by a few miles, and plenty of it is perfunctory or expositional. But I love enough of it that I enjoy reading my characters interact. I love seeing their voice animate their words in ways unique to them. Honestly, usually it doesn’t even feel like I did it, because they should all sound like me and somehow, they don’t, not quite. Once upon a time they definitely did. The first four, five, six years I was screenwriting, they either sounded like me or a half-rate Joss Whedon imitator. But the further I pushed, the less bad it got, and I fully intend to spend the next twenty, thirty years getting better.

I love my description. Sometimes, when I nail it, it’s my favourite thing. On those occasions, I’ll paint a concise and powerful picture: a vivid landscape, a thrilling fight scene, a tender love scene. Sometimes just the back and forth of lovers lingering or the beats of an argument in amongst the dialogue. Sometimes my description is the worst part of my writing: sparse and perfunctory, almost forgotten. Sometimes its repetitious: one professor described my use of the word ‘wince’ as an ongoing tic. But sometimes, I love my descriptions.

I don’t love everything I write. In fact, I’d say it’s comparatively a small portion. I like most of my writing well enough. Some of it, I despise. (There are some scripts I’d like to print, just so I can toss them in a bonfire.) Sometimes, first drafts of scripts I’ll later love are horrendous. Sometimes, a crucial scene will be surrounded by good work and yet persist in not working. I’m not a creature of hubris, expecting everything I write to be spun gold. But I can – with an open heart and buttressed by the responses of those I respect – accept that I love my work.

And you should too. If you can.

Honestly.

You should.

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