Ansley Asher

writing thoughts

Archive for self-censoring

The Slow Death from Hypercritism

Last night, I watched Superman 2 with my honey. Having seen the movie many times before, we didn’t watch so much as laugh at all the inconsistencies. And let me tell you, a movie about dudes flying around in their underwear is full of them.

But you know, I still enjoyed Superman 2 much more than the latest one. It was charming and entertaining. Christopher Reeve was great as the hero and his alter ego. He could act! And so could Margot Kidder, though she was no raving beauty. They breathed realism into the whole crazy show; they were believable. They made the world they were in seem to function according to its own quirky rules.

The point is, yeah it was inconsistent. But it kept being funny. It made fun of itself. The actors got the joke and went along with it. The story did its job: People were entertained. Being overly nitpicky of events would have killed the story. It wasn’t The Bourne Ultimatum. It wasn’t meant to be. I could replace the title Superman 2 in this post with many popular stories: James Bond, Harry Potter, The Hobbit.

Stay on target with the point of your story. Don’t kill too much of it before you are sure it needs to go, especially if it’s funny and if you believe it works.

That Spark of Life

How many times have you sat down to work when suffering from writer’s block and berated yourself by saying, “Why should I bother? I have nothing new to say. And there are already a million other books/blogs/short stories/etc. on the same subject.” Well, I wouldn’t sell yourself so short, my friend. Here’s why.

The odds of anyone coming up with the exact same words in the exact same order as you are a bajillion to one. Although experts say 87% of statistics are made up on the spot–and mine are no exception! All joking aside, unless you are parroting something you heard before (as I just did with that ancient statistics joke,) the way you choose to express yourself is uniquely your own. That has value. I never grew up in the Ozarks. I never went fishing with my cousin Sam. But the things I DID are the things that no one else did in the exact same way, and never will again. No one else will be living in the time I’m living in, doing the things I’m doing, and writing about them the way I am writing about them. So it is with you, and everyone.

I’ve read (anonymous) comments on blogs that say things like, “Women have no unique perspective. Old people have no unique perspective. Eskimos have no unique perspective.” You can reduce this very weak “argument” to: People different than me have no unique perspective. Say it aloud. Do you hear how absurd this sounds? The simple truth is, if you say what YOU have to say–and not simply copy what you have heard–you are adding your voice to the Great Conversation that humans take part in every day. This only augments our culture, not diminishes from it. Think about the talented people you love who write about the same topics. Take humor, for example–how many people write daily life humor? David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, even Jerry Seinfeld. And many more. None of those people write about their experiences the same way, even though they write about things everyone experiences–going out, talking to people, eating dinner, etc. How would you feel if your favorite humor writer quit because so many other people wrote about the same things she does?

Put your own uniqueness in your work. Trust yourself, and others will too.