Changing Point of View

point of view
“Damn you, France!”

In writing, changing point of view can be risky. Sometimes, however, it’s just plain necessary – to move forward, to gain a new perspective, to move past doubt in your writing.

September 2015 will not go down as my favorite month ever. I suffered through some career-changing revelations that rocked my confidence and reduced my trust in the path I had set myself upon.

At the time, I thought if it had to happen, it actually happened at the best possible time. I had just handed off the first draft of a new manuscript to my critique partners. I wouldn’t get feedback for another month. Sure, I had planned to work on some short story ideas over that time, but I could table those. It wasn’t a bad time for a little distance – from my new MS, from writing in general.

But September’s news brought with it not just disappointment. Some unwanted “voices” tagged along for the ride. These voices, and the words they speak, are by no means particular to me. As writers, I’m willing to bet we’ve all probably heard them.

“You’re pathetic.”

“No one wants to read your work.”

“Why don’t you go do something else with your time, because you’re obviously not very good at this.”

At the end of the month, I had a trip to France for my day job. This would keep my mind and hands busy for almost two weeks. When I came back, I figured, I’d get the feedback from my critique partners, roll up my sleeves, and get back to work.

And this is pretty much what happened. Almost.

As usual, my partners did a bang-up job of providing me feedback. It was constructive, important, and well-thought out. I would even go so far as to say they were complimentary of my work. Excited, I made a revision plan based on their comments. As I’d planned to do, I rolled up my sleeves and started executing on that plan.

There was just one problem. The voices were still there.

Distance hadn’t helped. Compliments hadn’t helped. Not even France had helped. (Damn you, France!)

The voices still spoke, especially when I tackled new writing, as opposed to just edits.

“You’re pathetic.”

“No one wants to read your work.”

“Why don’t you go do something else with your time, because you’re obviously not very good at this.”

Silencing voices like these isn’t easy. I daresay I still haven’t achieved complete success. But here are five “Change Your Point of View” tips I’ve found valuable in the past few weeks.

  1. Move Around (part 1) – if you’re luckily enough to have a few rooms in your home you’re able to write from, try ALL OF THEM. Most of us have offices we work from. This is probably where you were sitting when you got whatever bad news sent you spiraling and opened the door for those voices to walk through. Now, when you sit in that same spot to work, you hear the voices again, don’t you? So get up! Work somewhere else! It really helps to change your point of view in this way.
  2. Move Around (part 2) – get out of the house. Work from coffee shops, the library, restaurants. Anywhere that, like in #1, breaks the rhythm and rut as to how you’ve been working so far. Recently I’ve been rotating between three of four coffee shops that are each about 40 minutes away from my house. This is far enough to provide me a new perspective and prevent me from falling back on the home office because I’m close enough to run back there when I feel its pull.
  3. Talk to Mentors – the publishing industry is trying to do something really difficult – meld the artistic pursuit of writing with the actual rubber-meets-the-road task of selling a product, as in, books. I admire everyone involved for the attempt. The results, however, are often less than desired. Okay, that’s being nice. It’s a train wreck. If you’re fortunate enough to be connected with folks from “normal business.” take advantage of their guidance. At the very least, when you describe something that happened that felt odd to you, and they confirm your opinion, it’s great to realize you’re not the crazy one, because folks connected to the writing endeavor tend to sometimes rationalize the irrational.
  4. Read Different – all writers know we need to be reading as much as possible. And we all have genres or types of stories we enjoy, ones that usually related directly to the genres we write in. Try something else – anything else. Get back into a genre or medium you once enjoyed but have fallen away from. For me, I had stopped reading as many comic books as I used to. Recently I started reading a lot more again, and it’s been comforting to dive back into the panels again.
  5. Let Go – most of us had certain goals when we started writing. Or, probably more accurately, as we progressed, we started to see “being published” as a goal. But, honestly, the chances of that happening for most of us are so minute. There are so many forces at work that can equally help and hinder the effort. So I’ve found it’s more productive to be sure I’m writing for the right (to me) reasons: that I thoroughly enjoy my creations and the knowledge that I created them, that I enjoy the process of receiving critique and feedback and expending the effort to make each and every story the best I can make it, regardless of who’s eyes it’s for. These things, for me, are the true satisfaction. I’ve allowed myself the grace and freedom to let go of other goals that are mostly beyond my control.

What do you do when you’re fighting your way through writing doubt? How do you tell those voices to shut up?

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