I had always pegged myself as a natural creative writer. My imagination was always running wild and my ability to daydream was a talent. I loved the idea of fantastical worlds, lovely characters, and a good story to get lost in. Recently I had that image of myself shattered. As the years have passed and I have been given the opportunity to apply my writing skills on a professional and technical level my creativity has taken a back seat.
The Writing Chapter that I am a part of recently had their first round of critique groups. While I am far from unfamiliar with receiving a critique or even giving a review to peers, the group setting was something I had not done in a long time. I was slightly worried about the situation. Of course, being me, I put on my happy face and pushed through.
As I sat down to critique my peer’s work I found a strange realization coming over me. I was seeing the technical application along with grammatical rules first and the story second. When in the heck did that happen?! I became so hung up on the grammar, spelling, and some of the rules that were broken that I had to reread the pieces a couple of times to really get into the story.
I ended up literally staring at my screen with all the notes I had added and started to laugh. I finally understood what my edit genie was talking about when she said that sometimes her ability to catch mistakes takes away from the pleasure of reading the story itself. It was one of those freaky moments where you realize you are becoming one of your parents. Not that it’s a bad thing per say, but man was it a sobering moment.
That experience got me thinking about the struggles that a lot of writers go through when it comes to the technical aspect of their writing. There is this idea that writers can just take a pen and write something beautiful and artistic without effort and that the creativity and art are more important than the correction of grammar or flow. So when a lot of creative writers start out they are simply trying to paint a picture. The problem is that when you invite others into your art it is no longer just about what you put on the paper. Instead, it turns into how you are communicating with your audience. This is why editors are there. This is why multiple drafts are a thing. This is why one draft is not enough even for the most experienced writer.
It is a harsh reality that I know as a younger self I did not handle well. I wanted validation, not criticism. I wanted to be praised for my attempt at art and not corrected for my lack of skill. But now I stand in the opposite position. I see the need for that structure and I appreciate it a lot more. A properly conveyed story allows you to become lost in the pages. A rough draft will bog you down with its issues and you will need to see past the problems to get to the heart.
I feel as if I have finally gotten to a point in my writing mindset that I am okay with both the technical and the creative aspects of my own work. I want to strike a balance and finally understand that you truly cannot have one without the other.