We writers often tend to think of our creations as if they’re our children. We give birth to them, nurture them and watch them grow, and finally we let them go out into the world – where we hope all that we’ve instilled in them will enable them to succeed.
Sometimes, though, there’s this nagging sense that one of our creations isn’t finding its wings. It may be an article relating a topic that we’re really not passionate about, after all. Or we may be undertaking a project that has merit, but one of its particulars isn’t working; for example, a work of fiction where one or more of the characters never really come to life. There are a few good reasons why we should, at this point, be a little ruthless and perform a surgical operation on our work – or else discard it completely.
(1) If we press on, we’ll be needlessly adding to our workload.
The article might be something that could pay a few bills. Or the characters might be performing crucial roles within the book’s plot. The truth is, though, that we’ll be mismanaging our time if we persist in an area where inspiration is not flowing. Writing about a topic or fictional character that we don’t particularly care about will end up requiring a lot more time and effort because the work involved will be forced. It’ll require an effort of will. Being excited about our subject matter, though, allows the words to flow from our fingers as fast as we can keep up with them.
(2) Even if we tough it out until the end, the piece won’t represent our best effort.
If we don’t believe in the article we’re writing or the story we’re telling, our readers on the other end will know it. Our tone of voice will betray our lack of enthusiasm. 500 words written with passion and intent are worth 3,000 delivered grudgingly. That’s not a precise formula, but you get the idea.
(3) Sticking to what we think we “ought” to be writing can blind us to many more fruitful ideas.
How much inspiration can pass right beneath our noses while we’re saying, over and over, “I’ve got to finish that article about credit cards”? I guess we’ll never know.
There are times – and these are the most painful instances – when we’ll have to abandoned a writing project that we love only because we know we’ll never find a market for it. I guess there are two main reasons why writers develop thick skins. The first is so they can deal with rejection. The second is so they can anticipate it ahead of time and be merciless with their own work in order to prevent it from happening.