Are you too hard on yourself when it comes to creative writing?
I'll be the first to admit that it's such a subjective question, making it difficult to tell sometimes.
The inspiration behind this question is quite simple though: I’ve been told I’m too hard on myself by many people. And honestly, I just don’t see it.
I’ve got great self-esteem. I know my strengths and (most of) my weaknesses where I’m more than capable of improving in. So why shouldn’t I have high standards?
Also, contrary to my closest family members and friends, I actually do know how to take a vacation. Thank you very much.
It involves putting down my laptop, forgetting about work and eating everything in sight, Italian (or half-Italian) style.
But let’s say that “many people” are right. Is being too hard on one’s self – about creative writing or anything else – really such a bad thing?
I would argue yes. And no.
Let’s start with the no.
In favor of being “too hard on yourself,” I would argue that having standards is a very good thing.
When it comes to creative writing, we’d have a lot more worthwhile reads if people had higher standards they strove to live up to.
That’s not a dig against different tastes. Some people like certain books. Some people don’t.
But there’s far too much pure trash out there these days, and not just in the self-published world. Professionally published books can also too easily contain:
Characters that are unintentional stereotypes with no regard to reality
Plots that make no sense and/or are regurgitated garbage based on no real research
Settings that rely on the most contrived creations or abject clichés
Dialogue designed to preach instead of enhance the story.
People who are too hard on themselves are less likely to publish those kinds of problems. In which case, perhaps we need more harshness out there.
Then again, nobody’s perfect. And the pursuit of perfection is a total waste of time.
Excellence, yes. Perfection, no.
So, when it comes to creative writing specifically, we’d have a lot more worthwhile reads if people weren’t so hard on themselves. Because then they’d actually finish and publish the wonderful reads they wrote.
Perfectionism is a stumbling block that can too easily lead to a fear of failure. Which then leads to a lack of follow-through. Or, alternatively, it leads to full-out follow-through with no real joy in the accomplishment.
Either way, it’s not worth it to write a book if you’re going to get nothing permanently positive out of it. By that, I mean you need to get more than just a momentary high here or there when someone says something nice about your work.
That might be the real determiner of whether you’re too hard on yourself as a writer or not: Do you love what you do regardless of whether you get non-stop praise?
Everyone has a bad day here or there or gets their feelings hurt, of course. But is your typical response to hearing criticism an automatic urge to belittle yourself?
Or is it to contemplate it as a potential chance to grow?
If you’re not sure about the answer, you might want to read Dr. Alice Boyes “7 Signs You’re Too Hard on Yourself” article on Psychology Today. It could help you determine whether you fall into that trap.
Which, incidentally, I do not. So there, “many people.” So there.