Jon Gibbs (jongibbs) wrote,
Jon Gibbs

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Writing: The pros and cons of self-delusion

I had a great time at East Brunswick Library last night. Forty people turned up to hear my talk, 10 Things Every Writer Should Know. Folks seemed to enjoy it, and afterwards, some even bought a copy of Fur-Face, for which I'm extremely grateful. A huge 'Thank you' to everyone who came along, especially EBPL's Susan Kaspin, who was kind enough to invite me to give the talk in the first place.

During my presentation, I talked about excusitis - the failure disease. In describing the symptoms, I mentioned how some folks convince themselves that finding an agent or publisher is a matter of luck, nothing more, nothing less. As it turned out, someone in the audience actually believed that, and told me so, which got me thinking about writers and self-delusion.

The pros and cons of self-delusion
To a certain extent, writers need a little self-delusion (I know I do), particularly when we start out. If we ever hope to reach our publishing goals, we have to believe we're good enough, even though there's little evidence to support that belief. In fact, I suspect deep down, most of us know we really aren't as publishable as we think, at least, not yet. The best we can do is hope (and work) to become so.

That's certainly the case with me. When I write something I'm proud of, in my head I might give it (say) 9 out of 10, in reality, it's probably deserves an 8 or even a 7. Still, as long as I'm making a conscious effort to improve, I have no qualms about kidding myself in the meantime.

Whenever I pitch a story or send a query letter, I visualize an acceptance letter. Before every talk, I spend a few minutes pretending I'm 'on stage' as it were. I imagine the room's full of people who laugh at my jokes, and try to convince myself the audience will be glad they came (I also practise, a lot, because I know how my brain likes to sit back down again as soon as I get up to give a presentation).

These delusions are helpful, at least to me.

However, when almost everyone in your critique group says the characters in your story aren't realistic, or the plot doesn't make sense, telling them they just don't 'get it' is an unhealthy kind of self-delusion. The same goes for folks who try to convince themselves (and others) that getting published is a matter of luck, a crapshoot, that work rejected by agents and publishers is no different from the work they take on.

I guess we all delude ourselves in one way or another, the trick is to only do it in ways which can lead us somewhere good.

How about you?

What kind of writerly self-delusions have you come across?

Tags: fiction, writing

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