I have seven confessions to make- my writing sins. They are of course, about greed, sloth, lust, wrath, pride, envy and gluttony. Through my attempts to write well, I have sinned. And I don’t mean ‘done something naughty or risky’ (like used to many adverbs in one sentence!). By committing these writing sins- I sabotaged my own writing and success. Through future reflection, I learned valuable lessons. And it’s time to teach them to others.
Sloth refers to laziness, and a reluctance to work or to put in the necessary effort. I am guilty of this because as a person… I’m a bit lazy. I’m not a perfectionist, I can excuse the flaws in my own writing. Here’s the problem. You may not be a perfectionist, but your beta readers are. If you have not properly proofread your work before submitting it to a beta reader, they may have the impression that you didn’t put much effort into your work. Because of that, I implore everyone to put as much effort into their manuscripts, and making them the best as possible.
Writers do not an inner perfectionist- because there is only so much a beta-reader, an editor or an agent can do. It’s also a sign that you care about your story, your readers and how it’s presented. So before you post that unedited document on Kindle? Really think again.
Writers, don’t be lazy!
Writers compare each other to others all the time. And I’m no exception! I remember the minor grudges I had against my classmates for winning creative writing prizes…. in year four. This intensified as I would get sometimes nasty feedback for my creative writing in high school, and my classmates were winning prizes. This envy was so intense that it made my writing worse. I started to doubt my ability to write, that for a while, I wrote in an insecure way. My lack of confidence dropped in every page. I only kicked out of it when I realized I didn’t want my writing to be dictated by insecurities.
Out of all the deadly sins, I think people find wrath to be quite relatable. Anger is a human emotion that’s perfectly normal, yet wrath is when you take it to a level that hurts you and / or someone else. I’m glad to say that this never hurt anyone, but I used to write stories when I was in high school about all the people I had grudges on. So mature, right? But what gave me a moment of catharsis didn’t solve any of my writing or personal problems.
Literature that is written out of the sole intention to hurt someone will end up hurting your writing. Writing requires a clear and an objective mind during revision stages. Because of that, it’s a bit hard when all you can think about is getting revenge. And if the person you are writing about finds out about your story, and is offended? Oh boy. That’s not a pretty situation to be in. Out of all the writing sins, that one is best avoided.
This ties into my sloth argument. Sometimes, I write and I don’t think it needs editing or beta readers because I ‘have enough experience’ or ‘my writing is good enough.’ Alot of writers fall into this trap! The good news is that its easy to overcome. Understand that writers can only do so much, that errors are going to happen and it’s always okay to ask for help on shaping your story. In my experience, the most proudful people are those who are trying to compensate for years of shame. Maybe it’s a good idea to put your manuscript aside, figure out your personal problems and insecurities, and then work with beta readers.
I imagine gluttony as this. A person who indulges themselves in ‘vices’- whether that’s alcohol, drugs, food, casual sex, spending money, etc. They do it because they are hungry, and the only way they can feed themselves is through vice. I’ve felt this way for a long time, and I won’t get too personal here. But after you ‘feed’ yourself, you are still not hungry. The only thing that will fill that void is writing.
Now, these ‘gluttony’ mindsets have produced terrific works of literature. There are countless writers who suffer from drug addiction and eating disorders. However, it comes at a great personal cost. Writing to fill a ‘need’ may work in the short-term…. but do you want to spend the rest of your life, hungry? I suggest that if you are guilty of gluttony, to a) not be hard on yourself b) seek professional help for any addiction c) don’t let your addiction define you as a writer and as a person.
Despite many beliefs, you don’t need to be a miserable person to produce art.
As writers, we lust after success, prizes, money, fame, validation… and that’s okay! It’s not a big deal if you see yourself winning the Man Booker Prize one day. It’s only a problem when you desire those things at the expense of your writing or health.
A good example is any writer who compromises their voice in order to get those things. For a while, I struggled with creative writing competitions and writing submissions because I was so desperate for money- that I’d mimick previous successful applicants. Chances are, I produced some very mediocre rubbish!
I used to write fanfiction, and I was greedy for any comments, likes or shares. In fact, I got pretty obnoxious about it. What makes this story embarassing was that the fic I was sharing- was not necessarily good. This impacted on my writing because instead of improving my craft or developing my storytelling voice- I just wrote cliches and things I thought people would like. They didn’t.
So, those are my seven deadly sins of writing! I hope this post helped somewhat. Writing can be hard, and most writers fall into the traps I have listed. However, through discipline and kindness to yourself and to others- you can beat any writing challenge. On further reflection, I think my problem as a writer was that I was unsure of myself. I didn’t have a strong ‘voice’ in my writing. Being insecure doesn’t help either!
What are your thoughts on my writing sins? Comment below, I’d love to read about your experiences or any ideas!