Friday, March 4, 2011

Take a Step Back From Your Writing

When you take a writing course, whether it is one of the 1000 level English courses or one of the later courses, there is one aspect of writing that can get missed. Now, I’m not saying that it is always missed. There may be professors that discuss this with their students, but I don’t remember having a professor lay this out for me. What I’m talking about is separating yourself from your writing. This can be a difficult thing to do. When putting the words onto the page, it can be easy to become attached to those words. They represent your ideas and thoughts, and when you get back comments and critiques, you could feel like you are the one being critiqued.

I’m here to tell you that you aren’t being critiqued. You are not being attacked. Comments and critiques are there to push you to become a better writer. Critiquing your words is not the same as critiquing you as a person. You need to find a way to separate yourself from your writing. I struggled doing this when I started here at EIU. The way I got past it was immersion therapy. I took a creative writing course, and for those unfamiliar with how it works, I shall explain. You bring in a piece of writing and sit there in silence while everyone else in the class dissects it. It was rough the first time I did this. No one said anything mean or harsh, but I still felt hurt. The next time I had something workshopped it wasn’t as bad. I got used to it and was able to take this separation to my other courses.

So if you are trying to figure out how to separate yourself from your writing, try a creative writing workshop. It worked for me. Of course, this strategy might not work with everyone, so if you have other ideas, post it as a comment. How do you manage to separate yourself from your writing?


  1. There is Another Way

    Another possible way to detach oneself from their writing and avoid the blow of the crimson pen is to think of your work in the terms of drafting. This approach allows for a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to receiving criticism. I mean, honestly, if your instructor critiques a piece of your writing that is (according to you) still in progress, it is not nearly as bad as receiving that same criticism on something you took as the finished product. Remember, every piece of writing is in progress because it can always (and I mean always) be improved. So, in the future, tell yourself that it is just a draft, be it first or fifth, and the comments are there as the tools for further construction.

    English, G.A.

  2. In regard to what both of you have related, time management could also be an issue.

    To get all classical here, the Roman rhetorician Quintilian provides this advice: "Undoubtedly, also the best method for correction is to lay by for a time what we have written, so that we may return to it after an interval as if it were something new to us, and written by another, lest our writing like newborn infants compel us to fix our affection on them."

    Writers need time away from their documents, so they can come back to see the papers' strengths and weaknesses with a beginner's/reader's mindset.

    Hemingway's famous piece of advice provides a similar argument about writing multiple drafts: "The first draft of anything is @#$%."