Why I Threw Your Writing in the Trash

Listen up, writers.  Here's a side of Jenny that Penslayer girl you may or may not know. 

I have an extremely short temper.

That's right.  I have a short temper and no patience.  My friends Mirriam and Katie, they are much more long-suffering, but they are not fools.  They know.  I know.  We mean business.

That business is writing, and we take it seriously, folks.  If there is one thing I cannot stand, and I'm not going to apologize for it, it's a phony.  It's easy to spot, too. 

  • It's when people talk about writing but never do it. 
  • It's when people read far below their intelligence.
  • It's when people never read outside a single genre.
  • It's when people have a million stories going at one time.
  • It's when people keep getting distracted by new ideas.
  • It's when people participate in too many tags, blog parties, etc.
  • It's when progress is consistently NONEXISTENT.

Yeah.  We see it.  Here in the one-block neighbourhood of blogging writers, we see the tags, the blog parties, the year-after-year languish of your stories, we see your Goodreads lists, we see the innumerable times you use the term "plot bunnies" to excuse your lack of commitment and perseverance, we see when you use the embarrassing terms "writerly" and "bookish."  We see it and it pains us.

I do not care where you are on your climb to hone your writing skills.  I'm on that mountain too, still climbing.  What I demand of you is what I demand of myself.

Take writing seriously.

You can love it. You can be ecstatic about it.  You can be giddy and gleeful and full of passion.  I WANT YOU TO BE THOSE THINGS.  But I absolutely, fundamentally demand, if you are going to be a writer, to TAKE. WRITING. SERIOUSLY.  Throw all that romantic trash of sitting on rainy days in a coffee shop, people-watching, the erroneous belief that the world will never understand you - throw it all out the window.  Those are the hallmarks of a poseur.  You know what a writer does?  

He writes.  

In a way, it's both a good thing and a bad thing that it is so easy for anyone to sit down at a computer and vomit ideas into a document.  It's a good thing because people (like myself) start there and hone and build and improve.  It's a bad thing because anyone can do it and think that somehow that makes them a writer, and that makes them mysterious and romantic and entitled.  No, it does not.  All it means is that you are a human with an imagination.  The rest is work.  I can tell when people are posing, and I assure you, I have no time for it.  If you're going to do this, if you're going to be a writer, don't waste our time.  Write.  

Well, gee, Jenny.  This is not a very happy post, is it.

No, not really.  But that's because, while I fully appreciate authors opening up and being kind and encouraging (because, wow, that means so much to us as we aspire to greatness!), I also believe that you need to see the iron beneath the velvet gloves sometimes, just to be reminded that the iron is there.  Stop posing.  Stop dillydallying.  Take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror and ask, "Do I really care that much about writing?  Is it the thing that drives me?"

If the answer is yes, then DO IT.  Buckle up and buckle down.  Love it.  Let it empower you.  Be passionate about it.  But respect it.  Respect those of us who know better than to dabble.  Writing is a demanding art - just like all the others - so come to it with the respect it deserves!

You've got this.

12 ripostes:

  1. Between you + Arille + me, we're going to scare some people today. XD EXCELLENT POST. I APPLAUD.

  2. Scare some people, indeed, Mirriam. :P Between the three of you, I should have enough conviction to write three novels this year. ;)

  3. 'All it means is that you are a human with imagination' ABSOLUTELY.
    'the iron beneath the velvet glove' Yes, exactly. EXACTLY.
    This post is a terrific call to battle, Jenny.

    ~ Arielle

  4. 'Writerly'. Hate that word with a pattern. 'Bookish', not so much. At least for me it conjures up the image of a rather nerdy-in-an-old fashioned-way sort of person, with glasses, who would rather read than do anything else :)

    I have to admit that lately my writing has slacked off. Yes, I have an excuse, but I'm not going to bring that up :) Maybe your post was just the right kick I needed, lol.

    I also want to applaud you for pointing out that writers are not romantic, suffering artists. It always, always drives me UP. THE. WALL when people act like we're some special class of humans just for writing. We're not. We're writers. There are good ones, and there are those who stink at it (in the same vein, a book isn't sacred just because it's A Book; there's nothing wrong with throwing trash out, and I believe that includes trashy books. What makes a book special isn't that it has binding and print on the pages; it's what is printed on the pages that gives it value.)

    I suppose you'd also object to the 'authors are crazy' nonsense. I just want to crawl into a hole whenever I see that. No, we're not crazy. We're normal. We're people. We like to write, that's all. I don't talk to my characters, nor do they talk to me. I don't live on caffeine and chocolate alone. I don't chain myself to my desk. I don't bleed my life's blood onto the paper. I'm too hard on myself sometimes, too soft other times, just like ... gasp! everyone else.
    Nope, I'm not crazy and I'll thank anyone who says authors *are* crazy to take their nonsense elsewhere and stop stereotyping us :) (I believe I've written two blog posts on this subject; I'll try to go find them.)

  5. Ummm, did auto-correct really make 'passion' into 'pattern', or do I just have knitting that much on the brain? lol

  6. I love reading your thoughts on writing and enjoy your blog in general, so this is not a face-smash meant to belittle you. Just clarifying. At the same time, since this post is vehement, I'm assuming you'll excuse my responding in kind.

    I heartily agree that it's exasperating to see "writers" on the internet who are self-conscious and immature and who think of writing as a hobby, rather than real work. It's annoying to see the picture-perfect blogs and to read their carefully chronicled drama. But honestly, have a heart! Weren't you ever fifteen? Weren't you ever obsessed with one genre? Didn't you struggle and make mistakes on your way to where you are now? Didn't you ever dream about becoming a bestseller overnight and hope your writing would just write itself?
    There are so many erroneous theories in the writing field, so many confusing ideas thrown out by well-meaning professors and bloggers, and budding writers rarely hear what it's actually like. They rarely see real writing life because real writers are too busy writing. These girls are soaking up that baloney, just like we did, and they are trying to sort through it. So, they're annoying. God help us all, we're all annoying. You're annoying me, and I'm probably annoying you. So, they are not getting anything done, they're daydreaming by windows, and they're using words like "bookish." They're girls! A lot of them are in their teens. You do remember what we were all like in our teens, don't you? A bunch of sappy little idiots. But we were trying!
    Right now, these girls are obsessed with the idea of writing, the lovely rose-colored bubble that excites you when you first begin. And it is annoying to watch them wallow in it, thinking there's nothing to a novel except perfect nails and a Mac laptop. But if we were all to be judged by our mistakes and our teenage obsessions and our misconceptions, we'd be in sore plight.

    Some of those girls are trying. And they are going to come out of the haze and be writers someday. Some of them are also being tacky and faking it, and that's annoying, but have a little compassion on them in their confusion and their longing to be smart, on their insecurity and their love -- however wobbly -- of stories. They're sinners. We're all sinners. God died for tacky teenagers too.

    End of rant. :)

  7. Here's one from my old blog. It's not perfect, but I am rather fond of it, especially the last few paragraphs :D http://lauraeandrews.blogspot.com/2014/05/just-some-thoughts-on-writing.html

    I can't seem to find the second one I made on the subject; oh well.

  8. Laura Elizabeth - I super duper disagree with the "authors are crazy" trope. We are not crazy. If anything, we might be more normal because many of us stop to look at and consider what life is like, enough so that we can reproduce it realistically in our stories. Like you, I'm tired of being treated like a circus animal whenever it comes out that I'm a writer. Aiyaiyai. XD

    Sophie - Thank you for coming back at me! I didn't really expect the abrasion of this post to go over without a fight. Here I will say, I can see your point. I'm not really addressing the younger crowd; I'm addressing those who were young and have just gone on in the same vein without improvement. Yes, I, too, was a teenager - not that long ago, really - but I never read or wrote in just the same genre so I can't speak to that clique. However, I won't condone foolishness just because it is done in ignorance; I'd rather shake it up and shake it off. You know me by now, of course. You know I'm 100% in favour of improvement, of encouragement, of persevering. But sometimes the foolishness gets to be too much for too long, and if others want to seriously consider writing, they should be warned to do so, and not dabble in it and think it's all well and good.

    I was absolutely, totally a young, silly writer once. I still make some bone-headed choices with my plots! But the point is, the haze has to clear, and some of us need a little help. I did too! So here's me, telling others that the haze has got to clear. It is the BEST THING that can happen to you has a writer - I know from experience. Which is why I say at the end of this post: YOU'VE GOT THIS.

  9. Jenny, as someone who has learned that discipline is the cornerstone to writing, I appreciated your thoughts in this post. Self-control to sit down and get the work done regardless of feelings and distractions is a big part of what makes a successful writer. I think it's also a sign of growing maturity in the Christian life. Perhaps writers who struggle with self-discipline would find it fruitful to ask "am I struggling with discipline in my life as a whole?" It's something we all struggle with, so while I am compassionate for those going through this, I also think it's something to take authority over and conquer.

    After all, with anything else in life--motherhood, a job, college--you have to show up consistently. Writing should be given no less dedication. :)


  10. Jenny,

    I think the question I'm asking is: Is it foolishness? After all, you and I don't know these people. We don't know how much work they do that they don't report on their blogs, we don't know what struggles they are going through, we don't know their hearts. You mentioned that you demand of others what you demand of yourself and that you are all climbing the same mountain to achieve writing success. Frankly, I'm wondering: who gave any of us the right to demand anything of each other? God knows these people's hearts, and we don't. We aren't all "climbing the same mountain." God gives us each a path to follow -- in life, in relationships, in our careers -- and while He has given us universal standards to follow, reading "below our intelligence level" and using the words "bookish" and "writerly" are not, as far as I know, written down as hypocrisy in the Book of the Law.

    You mentioned that you will not condone foolishness, and that is definitely admirable. But this isn't about an abstract group of people out there whose unforgivable stupidity needs to be censored. It's about individuals made in God's image, some of whom may understand writing in ways that you and I don't yet grasp. It is, after all, possible that the people whose foolishness you want to shake off may know a thing or two that we don't.

    Again, I love your writing. I appreciate your insight. But, no matter how much you feel superior to these people and how far you feel you have surpassed them and how thick you think their haze is, for goodness' sake deal gently with them. If, as you say, you are concerned to help other writers through the lessons you've learned, it might be better to state that in a way that sounds less like a cranky rant from someone who is annoyed with their blog feed.

  11. Okay, so first off: I get what you're saying here. Writing is a beautiful art-- it should be treated with respect. Writing, when taken seriously, is a lot of work, and when you've worked yourself to the bone to create a beautiful piece of art, I know it's annoying when people around you start tooting their horn about their new story idea which you happen to know they won't get past the first page on. So I think I understand your rant.

    But I completely and respectfully disagree.

    See, painting is a beautiful art form. I've been to art museums and seen stunning exhibits by masters from many places and time periods. The beauty of some of the pieces I've seen has taken my breath away, and I 100% believe art forms such as painting should be respected and admired and taken seriously. But that does not mean that I'm going to snatch crayons and paintbrushes from small children because "they're dabbling" or "they're not taking art seriously" or "they're not committed to improvement".

    To me, one of the MOST beautiful things about art, in any form, is that anyone and everyone may try. And while not everyone will become a great artist, even a dabbler can experience the joy of creating something. Whether that something is beautiful in my eyes, or whether that something is ever fully completed is. not. the. point.

    In my opinion, even the most serious of all writers is, in fact, a dabbler by comparison. What is an artist but a smaller creator? And compared to our Creator, our God, I'm sure we all look like "phonies". But that doesn't mean that we aren't beautiful in our childish imitation.

    So-- I'm sorry about this super long rant, but to sum up: I've listened to and considered your demands and requests. And I have just one request of my own. Just as you ask that I respect you and those like you who know better than to dabble, I ask that you please respect those who know enough to dabble and to find joy in the creation, whether they have the ability and desire to create something great or not. Just because you may know more than them does not mean that their efforts are not beautiful.

    Thanks for posting!

  12. Gemma, you actually have a very good point and it's hard to disagree with you. Maybe Jenny is mostly talking to people who say they want to be serious (like me) and yet spend more time talking about writing than actually doing it. I am no expert on writing, yet I find myself tempted to write blog posts about writing when I've slacked off on my own stuff. So, whether it was aimed at everyone, or just those who say they're serious but don't act like it or not, this post was very timely for me.
    On the other hand, yes, you're completely right that it's fine to dabble in something (as a means of destressing, or to give in to a creative urge even if no one ever reads it, or simply for the joy of creating in a medium you love). I used to dabble in painting and drawing myself, despite not having much talent in it; it was fun and I got a few fairly good pictures out of it. They'll never hang in a museum, but that wasn't the point. So you're totally right and it's always good to have the other side stated, so we don't become *too* dogmatic on things that have a bit more nuance than we might realize in the heat of a rant :D