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You've Got a Friend in Me (Well, Maybe)

Hey there! So, I can secretly tell the future, and... I have some bad news. A few days from now, out of nowhere, one of your closest friends in the world is going to send you a piece of writing - their writing. And they'll want you to read it. This would be totally great, except, well... the writing isn't going to be that good.

I mean, you'll like it because it's by your friend and everything, and you love your friend so much - but objectively, what they send you is gonna need a lot of work. And they're really going to want to know your opinion, since you're a writer and everything. They're going to tell you they hope it isn't bad. Oh man. What can you do?

In the end, you're going to reply with something like, "I liked it! I really did, because... [insert praise] But here's just a few things you could work on... [insert kindly-worded constructive criticism]." Your friend will take it well, and you'll feel good for making them feel hopeful about their writing.


Okay, I admit, I can't really tell the future. But who knows? Maybe this situation could happen to you. You could handle it in any number of ways aside from the way I foretold. But I'm guessing that you would make a point to be kind to your friend.

You wouldn't berate them for writing badly, or tell them to stop writing, or tell them what they're doing isn't worth it because they're never going be good anyway. Or tell them that there's no point. Or tell them that it's too hard for them so they might as well give up now. Or tell them that nobody wants to read what they're writing and probably never will. Or tell them they suck.

Whoaa. Dude, where did all the depressing just come from? Who would ever consider telling those things to one of their closest friends in the world?

... One question: have you ever told any of those things to yourself?

It seems like sometimes as writers, we can be really, really hard - not on our friends, not on our fellow critique group members, but on ourselves. In every stage of creating a book out of nothing (wow!), we tend to be our harshest critics. Of course, there can be moments when you love what you're doing, or at least you have hope. But how often in the past have you gotten stuck in a needlessly harsh, "you suck" state of mind - even though you would never, ever treat a close friend who sent you their writing the same way?

I guess what I'm trying to say is: sometimes, if you can, remember to be a friend to yourself while you're writing. Because you deserve supportive friend-hugs at all times, and you deserve kindness. Even if - especially if - it's coming from yourself.

Emilia Plater

Emilia is a YA author who avoids studying, food that isn't covered in cheese, and waking up before 10:30AM whenever possible. A bundle of confusions.

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  1. Thank you for this post! It's true! I'm way harder on myself than I would be on a friend. Here's to being kinder to ouselves, especially with our writing.

  2. This is all very true. I get down on myself sometimes when I hit a snag, trying to work out a scene, and wonder if anyone would want to read this besides me. I guess I'm not a good friend to myself :)

  3. This is why I love YA Highway so much. You always post exactly what I need to read. I've been so hard on myself during my latest round of revisions. It's nice to know all writers feel this way, and even better to be reminded to chill and lay off the "you suck" mindset. Thanks!

  4. When I critique someone, and I often critique children's writing, I always warn them: "I am critiquing with a view to making this work publishable. That's how I work." The kids get a kick out of this. Adults sometimes start blustering "Oh, I'm not aiming to have it published..." which is when I usually want to tell them that they should show their writing to a therapist, not me. Or that they could pay me $125 hr to think like a therapist as I read their pages (I majored in psych!).

    My philosophy in critique groups is "If you don't have anything nasty to say. Don't say anything at all." I don't need my ego stroked. I can tell if people liked something. I don't want them to say "These are the strengths..." I only want the weaknesses.

    This attitude could explain why I'm so hard on myself. I submitted my upcoming verse novel (AUDACIOUS, Orca Books, Fall 2013) almost joking with myself, because I thought it was crap. Apparently not. I'm kind of dreading the editing process, because I think they are going to decide they hate everything about it. I face my WIP (sci-fi YA chick lit) with horror every morning. "Is there ANYTHING worthwhile here?" Usually not, IMO, but I keep going.

  5. Great post, and very true--we sometimes give other people a pass, while beating ourselves up for the same thing!

  6. Interesting POV, one that I've never really thought from, so thanks for this.

  7. I'm in a 'you suck' mood thanks for the reminder. I'm off to convince myself I don't' suck.

  8. Oh man, soooo true. That's why I consider my writer buddy the best friend ever. We always make an effort to pull the other out of the "I suck" hole of shame when one of us falls down there.

  9. Oh, this is such a good post! I think we all need to hear it sometimes too because it's all too true that we're way too hard on ourselves. Be nice to yourself like you would be to your friends.

    (Not to mention I LOVE the kittens)

  10. Wonderful words of encouragement! Those are the things we writers need to hear, because it's not about whether the writing sucks. It will at some point. That's a given. It's about that encouragement we all need to work to make it better as we tackle revisions.


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Item Reviewed: You've Got a Friend in Me (Well, Maybe) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Emilia Plater