Learning to Get Over Ourselves: Introduction

We want to believe that every draft we write is a masterpiece. Writing is such a personal act, and anyone who tells us that we need to change something about our work is out to get us or “just jealous.”

As writers, we have to learn to get over ourselves.

Great stories rarely happen on the first try. A piece of writing needs to go through the editing and revision process several times before it reaches its full potential.

Rejection of our work is not necessarily the end, but it could mean that we need to step back, stamp down our egos and see where we could improve our drafts before submitting again. I decided to find out from other writers, ones who have been published or work as professional writers in the field, when they first learned to get over themselves and how they became better writers as a result.

Some writers who “got over themselves”….

Josh Womack, speechwriter for Laugh Staff 

photo of Josh Womack, copywriter and writer

courtesy of Josh Womack

Josh is a copywriter by day and a comedian and wedding speech writer the rest of the time.

When would you say you “got over yourself” as a writer for the first time?
A couple years back I hopped on the phone with a couple guys who used to write monologue jokes for late night shows. When they dissected my writing, it was apparent that a) there were other funny people in the world beside me and b) what I thought was good content really wasn’t good enough for TV. It humbled me very quickly!

How did it help you to become a better writer?
The experience taught me that there’s a natural learning curve with all types of writing (jokes, speechwriting, copywriting, blogs). Every writer has their own interpretation of how something should sound. Now I’m more open to feedback and how other writers interpret their creativity.

What has rejection taught you about writing?
So I saw this tweet recently from Brian Koppelman (creator of Showtime’s Billions) that sums up what I think a lot of writers feel about rejection. “To an artist, rejection, at first, feels like death. That’s how personal the work is. And that’s why we’re afraid to do the work. Because then we have to show it. And then they might reject it. But rejection is only a death if you let it stop you from doing the work the next day.”

Craig Brown, senior copywriter, freelance journalist and dog lover (Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @CraigIsWriting)

headshot of Craig Brown

courtesy of Craig Brown

When would you say you “got over yourself” as a writer for the first time?
Oh, well, I’ve never been very confident in my writing and it took me a long time to feel comfortable telling people I was a writer when they asked what I did for a living. Mostly I thought that way because I had yet to write the Great American Novel. Stupid. I know.

That said, as writers, I believe we secretly think our shit doesn’t stink and we don’t want to hear that it does. Sometimes I think my first draft is untouchable. No one has ever written a perfect first draft of anything. But it takes a great editor to let the writer down gently. I think I truly got over myself as a writer when a really amazing editor I was working with showed me the difference between when I was writing well, and in my voice, and when I was writing in this style of how I thought a writer should write or sound on the page.

Luckily, that was early in my professional writing career. It made me realize I need to trust myself and my talent. I thank the universe I got to work with her. As a writer, you have to partner with a good editor or creative director. Someone who understands not just the process and craft of writing, but the creative thinking behind it. Find that person and you’ll be set.

How did it help you to become a better writer?
I relaxed a lot. I felt that feeling you get when you delete a bunch of photos and suddenly you have storage space on your phone again. I stopped worrying about whether or not people were going to like my writing and just wrote. And it didn’t matter what I was writing.

I’ve been a copywriter and a freelance arts, culture, and travel journalist for 7+ years. I also write fiction, sketch comedy, and stand-up. All are different styles of writing, but they require creative freedom to do it well. A great editor is there as a guide and mentor to help navigate that. The only thing that will hold you back is yourself. You need to let go of that and the fear of rejection. You will find your voice and your confidence. I say that fully realizing that I will never stop second-guessing what I write, but now I just do it less and I don’t let it control me. Though, full disclosure, I did second guess my responses to these questions.

What has rejection taught you about writing?
It taught me not to get defeated. I easily could’ve stopped pursuing a career in writing years ago. I could’ve stopped writing short fiction. I could’ve quit my job(s). I could’ve …but I didn’t. Rejection helped me get better and it still does. Rejection shows you that whatever you tried this time didn’t work. When that happens you should go for a walk or a swim, or spend time with your family, or go to the movies, or read, or play with your dog. Then pour another cup of whatever you’re drinking, sit down and get back to it. It’s the only way you’ll stop getting rejected.

Writing is a process. It’s a craft. It requires practice. Keep writing and keep learning from your mistakes. You’ll get better. Promise.

This post will be followed up with interviews from other writers who have faced rejection, had their drafts torn apart in the editing process, cried through the tears and anguish…. and become better writers a result. Stay tuned!