Friday, March 17, 2017

Beware the Ides of March: Writer Version, by Claudia Mills


"Beware the Ides of March!" the Soothsayer tells Julius Caesar, and despite the emperor's scoffing at the warning, halfway through this stormy month of early spring, he's assassinated. The last words he utters are "Et tu, Brute?" - Latin for "Even you, Brutus?" - for it is one of his trusted friends who betrays him by plunging the fatal dagger.

I couldn't resist asking myself, what should we beware of, as writers? I decided that the beloved companion most likely to betray us is - ourselves.

You probably have your own favorite techniques of writing self-sabotage. Here are a few of mine:

1) Procrastination: endless busyness with just about every project that isn't writing."If only I could get caught up on my backlog of emails, and cross things off my long list of LTs (Loathsome Tasks), then I could sit down to write. . . ."

2) Envy: "My books will never be as good as the books of the authors I love and admire most, so why should I even bother?"

3) Laziness: "Okay, this book I'm working on isn't very good, but hey, one of my books has to be the worst one, so it might as well be this one."

I tend toward laziness myself, but you may tend instead toward the opposite danger:

4) Perfectionism: "It's too soon to share this book with any readers; I've only been working on it for six years, and I still have a lot of polishing and tweaking I need to do."

Finally: my current self-trap:

5) Exaggeration: responding to a thorough (but kindly expressed and extremely helpful) critique of a manuscript with deliberate distortion of every comment offered: "They hated it! They hated every word of it! I should throw it all away and dig a big hole in my backyard and bury the manuscript and never be a writer again!"

All of these are different forms of the single biggest demon besetting writers: self-doubt.

Caesar was betrayed because he trusted Brutus too much. Most writers are betrayed, I would hazard, by not trusting ourselves enough. In any case, the Ides of March have come and gone, and we're all still alive and kicking. So let's set aside procrastination, envy, laziness, perfectionism, exaggeration - self-doubt in all its devious forms - and write.

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