The disclaimer jar – advice on attitude to one's writing

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  • #2270
    Sandra
    Participant

    I came across an article by Philip Hensher talking about a piece of attitude-changing advice he received as a schoolboy: ‘Don’t apologise, don’t denigrate something you’ve created.’

    Some of the informal writing gatherings I’ve been to share the same attitude – having spent ten minutes writing a piece using given prompt word, those who say, when it comes to reading it aloud, ‘Oh it’s not very good’ are required to put a coin into the ‘disclaimer jar’, the amount being sufficient to deter.

    I learnt a similar lesson as an art student. Telling the visiting artist, over and over, ‘This was just an experimental print’, he got exasperated and said, ‘Why don’t you just set out to do a print you mean?’

    I’d be interested to hear what eye-opening pieces of advice others have received.

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Sandra.
    #2272
    Alan Rain
    Participant

    It’s either in your nature to be self-deprecating, or confident of your ability and happy to tell the world. I’ve always been self-deprecating. I wish, sometimes – when writing a cover letter, for example – it wasn’t so, but there it is.
    I was also an art student, and could never promote my work.

    The only advice I’ve received recently was from an agent at FoW18, who wrote on my letter: ‘Don’t self-deprecate. Be confident.’ Inside, I am confident about what I create, but I’m not confident about telling others.

    #2273
    JaneShuff
    Participant

    Interesting. If I’m asking people for feedback and it’s the first time for us both, I try to signal that I know the piece of work isn’t perfect/finished and that I am genuinely hoping to be told what doesn’t work. Is that self-deprecating? I don’t think so. But I wouldn’t express doubts in a cover letter because it does beg the question as to why you sent the MS to the agent in the first place.

    #2274
    Alan Rain
    Participant

    No, I wouldn’t express doubts either, but neither would I be boastful. I want my cover letter to lead the agent to my MS, not give him/her false impressions about me as a person.

    #2275
    John S Alty
    Participant

    You have to blow your own trumpet, no-one is going to blow it for you.

    #2276
    Alan Rain
    Participant

    If it’s good enough, I prefer my MS to do the trumpet-blowing (show, not tell).

    #2277
    Sandra
    Participant

    I realised that, when in the habit of being ready and willing to apologise, I was giving myself an excuses to fail.
    Joining groups such as the Cloud, partaking in story challenges – stretching myself so as not to embarrass myself, judging my work against the very varied submissions of others, and trusting that my peers will give it the respect the situation merits – has well and truly cured that.
    Where I do genuinely struggle – and generally fail – is when an invitation to submit a novel cites, as requirements, something that will, “excite, enthral, blow our minds”.
    I think of all the books I’ve read that have done that for me … and am truly aware that mine don’t match up. Even though I am pleased with what I’ve done.

    #2279
    Philippa East
    Participant

    Such an interesting thread, Sandra.

    I think the most helpful advice I read on this theme was the point that it is not my job to judge whether my work is good or bad. Who am I to say whether someone else’s mind will or won’t be blown? That’s up to them.

    My job as author is to write the damn piece to the very best of my ability, and then to put it out there.

    The rest is someone else’s responsibility. 🙂

    This attitude helped me combat (or at least ignore and override) a few doubt demons.

    #2283
    Sandra
    Participant

    Phillippa: that sounds a very good attitude to develop,thanks.

    #2286
    Jonathan
    Participant

    I read something a while ago on “how to accept compliments” or something to that effect. The temptation to say “oh, no, it’s not very good, it’s nothing” is, as I understand it, to be resisted, using a simple “thank you” in its place. Doing this has, for me, changed the way I see myself a little, from impostor playing at “being artistic” to someone creating work of value.

    The IS still makes a reappearance every now and again though. It often seems there is all this other gumpf that must go along with being creative – dressing a certain way, living in a particular postal area, and so on – and that if I’m not doing any or all those things, I’m somehow a fraud. It’s pretty silly but there it is.

    #2291
    Squidge
    Participant

    Interesting. I think sometimes, ‘It’s not quite there yet’ can sound like an apology, when it’s actually the admittance of a mature (by which I mean you know yourself and your writing) author, who realises that something created in such a short space of time needs more work. I’ve done it myself!

    But of course it takes time to build that confidence in what you write and how you write – which is where a lot of us struggle to accept we’re actually doing something well. I know exactly what Sandra means when she talks about measuring yourself up to amazing books we’ve read. Done that – even among the cloudies, when I see what some folks have written! As Philippa noted, you have to accept the you write a particular way, you can only do your best, and leave the rest to other people!

    On the other end of the scale – and something quite different – is when folks say their work’s no good when it flippin’ well is, and they’re just fishing for the feel good compliments.

    #2302
    Thea
    Participant

    Interesting article, Sandra. I agree that many people have a tendency to downplay their work, to lower the expectation of the reader / viewer, as a sort of safety mechanism. And, as Squidge said, there are those who take this to the extreme and are really fishing for compliments.

    You make a good point, Sandra re the story challenges being a good way forward; they’ve certainly helped me.
    Perhaps writers and artists should embrace that old adage: never apologise, never explain.

    #2304
    Sandra
    Participant

    Yes, Thea – that ‘never apologise, never explain’ – I read, many years ago, that to do so was a sign of immaturity, but it’s one I haven’t always managed (not so much about my writing, I’m glad to say).

    #2334
    Thea
    Participant

    I haven’t either, Sandra! Though in my writing I try to adhere to the RUE rule and thus probably don’t explain enough.

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