Philosophy of Writing – 12 – Obsession

Posted on May 27, 2012 by


You imagine what people will say, but they always say things you never expected, because word sludge is pulled through their sillystraw brains in an entirely different set of loops than through your neural spaghetti, right? Because each person is a universe, and Cosmo can’t tell you shit about what your man thinks.

I brace myself, therefore, for alien concepts lurking in my beta readers’ emails by – guess what – line editing, which I suppose has developed into a panacea. Line editing is my colloidal silver. Maybe if I line edit enough no-one will notice the structural flaws.

“Ignore the beautiful language,” said the professor of my college writing class, “and focus on the problems.” And I thought, Armour failure abort abort, and I hoped my panic looked a lot like smugness because I’d rather be a dick than seem incompetent.

It’s due to childhood trauma, which doesn’t excuse it any, but if you’re interested I mean the Stockholm Syndrome felt by single kids of intellectual WASPy Catholic families all over the southern US. You can’t be stupid but pretension is a type of self indulgence and all self indulgence is immoral and pathetic, so it’s really best to speak Harvard English with a drawl and order expensive Mexican food for formal dinners. You have to get up at 6am and own a lot of dogs because this is the South, after all, and heaven knows we’re far too intellectual to be religious on the whole but nobody likes vulgarity or weakness, and especially nobody likes fat girls or teenagers, which are both things you should feel guilty for being, by the way, for the rest of your life. The best use for your East Coast liberal arts degree is a high-powered pragmatic job that exudes effortless success because heaven forbid you use your Bachelor of Arts to become an artist, how pretentious and/or childish of you.

When people read my writing, they come up with flaws I will never be able to see because everything I see arrives coloured by that (↑) filter. As you can imagine, not many things survive the trip.

Which is why I love my beta readers, and why I seek out a handful of them rather than the standard two or three: I need my bases covered.

To my betas: you are saving me from my own obsessions. Thank you.