A Writer’s Self-Assessment

I think a lot of writers struggle to evaluate their work.

We all have days when writing is hard. When that happens to me, I’m ready to take up cat herding or yak wrestling as a way to spend my time, rather than facing another blank page.

At other times, the words flow onto the page like water over a waterfall. On those days, I leave my desk feeling more energized than I was before I sat down. Those days make me feel like I could win the New York Marathon. (Disclaimer: I can’t.)

Perhaps the most absurd part of the writing quandary is that the ease or difficulty of any given writing session has nothing to do with the quality of my writing.

In other words, just because the pages came easily doesn’t mean what they contain is any good. I’ve had to delete a lot of words that flowed smoothly from the tap.

The writing life is capricious that way.

That pushmi-pullyu of writing can make it hard to judge and revise my work.

But, as any wordsmith can attest, writing is actually rewriting.

Nothing is worth a damn in a first draft. Most things probably aren’t worth a damn on the second or fifth revision, either.

While trying to learn to be a better editor of my work is vexing, I recently realized I have another flaw as a writer.

I’ve noticed that I tend to be a cerebral/intellectual writer.

What I mean by that is I can write pages and pages about my characters plotting some action and mapping out what they’ll need to do. Getting inside my characters’ minds and understanding how they think comes easily to me.

But when it comes to writing about my characters’ fears, worries, loves, or sorrows, I struggle.

I recently realized that when I need to write a big scene where a main character has some kind of intense emotional reaction, that’s when I struggle to make my daily word count.

I procrastinate. I research something that will happen later in the book. I browse social media.

I’ll even walk away from my desk and read rather than stay in my chair and write about how my characters feel about their circumstances.

I don’t shy away from all emotions. I can write a character feeling angry with accuracy. I’m also okay at handling sarcastic humor (probably because I’m a smartass by nature).

But the emotions that make characters vulnerable are a challenge for me to represent authentically.

And writers who present those emotions honestly and effectively is often what readers seek when selecting a book to read.

Indeed, it’s something I look for when choosing a book.

I’m not sure how to overcome that flaw, but I’m glad I’ve finally identified what’s keeping me from being a better writer. After all, I can’t fix a problem if I don’t know it’s there.

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