A time for Reflection

I’ve often heard actors say they can’t bear to watch themselves on-screen, that they see every flaw; every perceived error in their own production. It makes me wonder how many other artists say the same thing. I’m sure there are authors among us who fear the prospect of reading their own work, once it reaches publication. Once the editing part is over, it can be a dangerous thing to go through it again – you will always find something to improve on. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I recently read a wonderful poem on a friend’s blog (Callum McLaughlin); it’s worth reading, so click here to check it out. The poem spoke to me in a number of ways, but mainly I thought about the hard truths I’ve had to face recently about my own writing.

When I look back at the Conduit, the first book I published, as well as  celebrating the achievement, I can’t help but feel the disappointment. I published it too early, tore it apart so many times that in the end, the story wasn’t as strong as it could have been. I learnt from my mistakes and the Missing Link is what The Conduit should have been. I remember the passion I felt when I was writing it, and then the number of times I changed it. Each time I weakened it.

Sins of the Father is one I’m particularly proud of, but I can still accept the mistakes I made along the way. Though people enjoy the book, and feedback has been good, I can’t get away from the fact it is a little on the complicated side. The lesson I learnt in that respect was to choose my beta readers wisely and to take a step back. I did so for Hands of Evil, which comes out at the end of July and I’m glad I had the opportunity. There are still more characters than some of my readers would like, but the fact they enjoyed it and wouldn’t change it, is a good thing. I wonder how it will feel to read it once the finished product is in my hand. Will I be able to read it objectively?

Less is more, I guess. I certainly appreciate the value of that since getting feedback for Addy’s Choice (under my pseudonym Nat Hobson). I wrote the romance novel after gaining feedback on a short story, and because the characters had decided they wanted a much bigger role! I didn’t expect it to be a favourite among readers who enjoy my work, but there lies another lesson.

I know as writers we can be over-critical of our work, but I’m not sure I can ever look back and be one hundred percent happy. I can see the strengths and should learn to focus on those, to take the flaws and work at them.

Am I being too hard on myself I wonder? Should I even be sharing this, since there is a danger of losing readers in the face of such honesty?

How about you? How does it feel when you look back at your earlier work. Can you turn off the inner editor who wants to get their hands on it again, no matter how hard you worked?

Thanks for reading.



17 thoughts on “A time for Reflection

  1. paulwhitberg says:

    I don’t think you would lose readers. ON the contrary, readers would find your honesty endearing. No work ever feels complete. Your feeling of regret on encountering “flaws” likely stems from your growth and change as a person and writer.

    1. mbarkersimpson says:

      Thanks, Paul. Your words of encouragement mean a lot. I really appreciate your support and understanding. The community here never fails to lift my spirits. It’s why I felt able to share my feelings on the subject 🙂

  2. callummclaughlin says:

    I think everyone would just appreciate your honesty and it’s a feeling most will undoubtedly be able to relate to. The fact you want to work hard to improve your writing just shows that you are passionate about what you do; I don’t think anyone could criticise that.

  3. Harliqueen says:

    They say that your hardest critic is yourself, and I think that is very true in some cases.

    It’s hard to look objectively at our own work, because we know all the little hang ups and bits we edited, and they usually stand out. But having a read through our old work can help see how far we’ve come and improved, but also remember why we started writing in the first place 🙂

    You need to write how you feel it’s best for you and your story, you know it best after all. In the end, the reader will be happier for it 😀

    1. mbarkersimpson says:

      You’re right. Thanks for your words of encouragement. I know people feel the same, I suppose I had to get it off my chest. It was a freeing experience. I’ve learnt so much and it humbles me how supportive the community is.

      1. Harliqueen says:

        Blogging is a great way of getting those sorts of feeling out into the open, especially when there are so many who are willing to help out. As you say, the community is a great place! 🙂

  4. paulwhitberg says:

    It’s best to write first and have regrets later. I let my harsh inner critic, my obsessive need for perfection, paralyze me for years. Time and experience have taught me that the worst work created is better than the best work only imagined.

    1. mbarkersimpson says:

      How aptly put. Even your feedback is poetic! Seriously though, I know exactly how you feel. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m glad you took the plunge (so to speak). Your work is meant to be read and appreciated 🙂

  5. Lic. María Raiti says:

    Hi dear, do you know Perre Bonnard, the French artist? He was caught by the security guard “re-painting” one of his paintings that was hanging on the exhibition hall at the museum!!! We all may feel at times a bit like Bonnard not only with our need to express through our art but also in life. “Oh, what if I would have done such and such, and not just what I did?”. But at that point, when we did and said what we did, we were on that particular mood and acted from the force of that unique impulse.
    One particular thing I like about writing short stories for children is the fact that I get many chances to narrate my stories to avid public. And then, if I read, I recreate it every time a bit different, adding subtle differences that match the mood of the day for better. So I believe we can accept the fact we would be changing and changing our productions for the simple reason that we change (thank God!)… As for the rest of the world, they tend to really appreciate what we were able to do instead of criticizing us (those who only criticize dont deserve our art 😉 ). As in my case, I really love Bonnards art and can hardly imagine any of his paintings needing “editing”! This is one of my favorite paintings from him: http://bit.ly/1s6xSvB
    Much love, Fernanda

    1. mbarkersimpson says:

      Thanks so much for pointing me in the direction of his work, and for your perspective. Your experiences bolster my own belief that we continually learn and grow and it feels good to have people who understand our insecurities. I don’t know Bonnards work, but I feel a connection to him already. Thanks so much for commenting and sharing. Love, Mel

I'd love to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s