General Thoughts · Opinion · Writing

Why I’m Not Humble About My Writing

The writing community has this weird little thought process that goes like this: “If you think your writing is good, that means that you just don’t understand how bad it is.” The implication is that if you like your writing, your writing must suck.

Guess what, world? I love my writing–and I don’t think it sucks at all.

I love my dialogue; dialogue is a specialty of mine. I think my rhythms are just right, and I do a great job of phrasing speech in a realistic way while still imparting important information.

My metaphors are slam on, as are my themes. I can take one and weave it through the entire book so that when I read back, it feels so natural, so obvious, yet just subtle enough.

I think I’m fantastic at slipping in parallel plots that echo my themes everywhere. The subplots entwine and merge and separate, but always engage each other. I love my subplots.

And have I mentioned my characters? Or my action scenes? How about my scene-ending lines?

This is the part of the post where I’m supposed to say, well, gosh, I’m not perfect. I write some stuff really poorly. Some of my stuff is not great at all. I’m so humble as a writer!

You guessed it, I’m not going to. I refuse. Maybe I’m not perfect at a few things, so what? I’m working on it. And what I do well, I think I do very well indeed. I love what I write, and I believe that other people will love reading it.

In fact, I have a problem with the word humble, which means, having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience.” Rounding my shoulders has never been a talent of mine. I don’t feel particularly small or less-than, either.

The other meaning of humble, not proud or arrogant; modest,” also falls flat for me. I’m self-publishing a few things. If I don’t shout to the world that they’re awesome and everyone should read them, who will? Modesty doesn’t sell copies, but saying “this stuff is good” just might. Sure, I have to live up to it, but isn’t that the whole point?

If I don’t believe I’m a good writer, who the heck will?

Nobody, that’s who. My life isn’t a particularly silly plot where the heroine doesn’t believe in herself but everyone is constantly assuring her she’s amazing. My life is real life. If I repeat that I’m bad enough times, you might just start believing it, so I’d better let you know the truth right now so you can get used to it.

Ah, does this make me arrogant? Too proud? Immodest?

Or does it make me perfectly normal?

Do we expect someone who prepares a feast to say, “Well, it’s okay, but not compared to the rest of the world,” or do we let them say, “Eat eat eat!” Should those who make spreadsheets proclaim, “Yes, I can make a nice spreadsheet–but it’s hardly adequate?”

Expecting people to make less of their own work seems like a cruel exercise, and telling them that thinking they’re good means they’re bad is a logical fallacy. I won’t participate in it, won’t diss my hard work. And I hope you won’t put down yours either.

Work hard, keep learning, keep growing, and keep your chin up. If your writing makes you feel the world is a big place, that doesn’t mean you’re insignificant. If the words of those before you cause you to rethink your own, there’s no shame in learning. Heaven knows we all have our moments of doubt. Toot your own horn just to see what noise it makes.

So, fellow writers and non-writers alike, what’s something you’re good at? What do you do best of all? Your cliff-hangers, your romantic leads, your tense stand-offs? Soaring similes? Perfect punctuation? Tell me. Tell the world!

Today, let’s be proud of ourselves together.

[Header picture courtesy of xkcd.com.]

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3 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Humble About My Writing

  1. You got confidence, kid. But, I am guessing whoever occupies this “community” you are linking with spends more time in the shadows avoiding daylight. Mole people, perhaps. There is something grounding about humility. And, history shows how bragging leads to downfall and conflict. But, if you are sure of yourself, keep going and don’t look back…except at your own work…to check for errors.

    Nobody’s perfect. But, we can sure try or feel like we are when everything “sings” in our work. If your work sings for you, it’s good enough. It probably can’t get any better than that. Yet, you never know when someone could enter your life and change your mind. Being open to possibility saves us from restricted thinking. So, just maybe that’s what these who clashed with you were thinking? It’s an optimistic guess.

    You fit your image over there on the left. You’re half the apple. One half is humble, giving. The other is almost too ripe, ready to rot if it doesn’t get eaten soon. You’re ready to hop off the branch and get to use/work. But, the other half–the half I imagine the “writing community” you found is looking at/for–should be open to the possibilities of improvement. Again, i am just guessing no one wants you to think you are perfect or set expectations too high.

    And, actually, the humble half of the apple could do just as well with finding readers. I’ve noticed my attraction to humble talents. Yet, I am leery of those who might fake being humble to get that attention. I think some fake shyness and tears to stir a crowd. But, I am just as compelled to soften and listen when someone is humble versus boasting. Conan O’Brien earned my respect when he switched from a chatty jerk to a softer, more self-deprecating comedian, making light of his own foibles.

    So, in short, be proud of your work, but be open to the possibility of growth and improvement. If you reach the top, what then? Do you take on the gods of writing? Conquer the heavens?

    I will admit your fiery enthusiasm has sparked a lil flame in me to stand a bit taller. So, thanks for that. You’d make a good squire or fellow knight.

    So, that’s NOT your comic strip above? Because I noticed “definitely” was misspelled. The strip is also confusing. The “advisers” are telling the middle person humility leads to worse things before telling the latter to type a humble yet positive sentence about the work of someone else. The sentence requested is not the opposite of humility. What am I not getting?

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    1. The comic is from XKCD.com, as noted, and are created by Randall Munroe, not myself. It’s a Star Wars reference talking about derailing conversations by correcting others’ grammar usage, but I find it applies here nicely.

      As you said, the axiom of “If you think you’re good, you’re not” came about because many people use “I’m good” as an excuse not to learn, because they believe that those individuals are generally not good at what they do. I don’t think it’s true in all cases, but I do think it’s a shame when people don’t keep engaging.

      But too often I’ve seen the axiom used as a weapon. In fact, I wrote this post after seeing the following post on twitter: “If you don’t feel humbled by your work, you’re probably not a real writer, or even human.” I found myself disgusted by this sentence, which did not speak of true humility, but shamed anyone who was proud of themselves and their work. Pah!

      There are some truly humble people out there, who do feel that their writing makes them less. By all means, if that’s their true feeling, then what can I say but each to their own? But I don’t, and if they are entitled to express their feelings, then I too may indulge mine. Whether my writing is objectively good, I am proud of it, and I am happy with my achievements so far, and I see nothing wrong with stating it.

      I’m glad you feel motivated by reading this post; that was my hope, for you and for everyone who came across it. I think there are two kinds of people who make others feel better: those who bring themselves down, and those who lift others up. I prefer the latter.

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      1. I would never have guessed that comic was Star Wars-related.

        In contrast to your thinking, I find “bestsellers” which have printed errors that should have been caught by editors. And, some parts I feel could be worded better. Yet, these authors get trumped up by agents and publishers as “the best of the best” when there are too many “bests” and, apparently, not enough people to polish their work. An author who might get a big head without earning the proper rights would seriously get under my skin.

        I think the post you found was–hopefully–intended to humble any artist/writer so they do not get that inflated ego and start turning their nose up to others. It was an anti-judgmental campaign.

        A humble writer too shy to put their work “out there” might just need more time, like a snail, to reach that goal. Or, they need a good person to work with them and not some vulture who takes them for a financial ride. Humble isn’t always bad, either.

        Yes, you are entitled to your pride.

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