Don’t Drink Your Own Poison: Apologizing For Your Work

bottlesI just want to start this post by recognizing (as my dear friend Chris DiCicco will no doubt bring up with me almost immediately) that I am guilty of this very thing I’m railing against as recently as last week–after I gave him a hard time about it, and after he agreed that I was right, et cetera, et cetera.

Alright, now then:

You really shouldn’t talk about your work as if it’s the worst thing to happen to the language. I know it’s easy to do, and I know why you do it: because you’re putting up a shield against other people saying your writing is bad. You’re making a suppression fire to stop the forest fire of shame that you suspect will come from readers or reviewers.

I get it, I have the same impulse. If I say the story is no good, it won’t hurt as much when other people say the same thing.

Well knock that off, for God’s sake. It doesn’t work, for one thing, and it also does nothing to reinforce that writer’s skin you’ve been working on for so long. Embrace the possibility of people not liking your work–but also don’t push them towards that path.


My own writer’s group is thick with this posturing. Any time any of us submit, we generally add “this is horrible/I’m so sorry/here’s this crap to read” with the story file. It’s almost always met with a mix of responding “oh shut-up, you’re great” or “you’re right, this will be horrible” or other such sarcasms. We do it over and over, and it’s the least constructive thing we do in our group (because, frankly, everything else is pretty damned important and helpful, speaking for myself).

However, setting up that expectation is remarkably counter productive. You aren’t going to endear yourself to your reader, nor are you going to allow yourself to be convinced to accept compliments in the criticisms (they’re just saying to make you feel better, after all).

Instead, I suggest submitting work to your writing groups/readers without any comment on the quality of the work. If you chose the right sort to be looking at your work, they’ll be able to figure out if it’s under your normal skill level. Furthermore, it makes the entire conversation more genuine and helpful. Essentially, you’re removing the possibility for pity or guilt, and that makes for better critiquing and building of your stories.

Let your work, whether your best or your worst, speak for itself.


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