January 10, 2009: You’ve Got To Please Yourself

For what seems like a million years but is really only as long as I’ve been talking about writing, I’ve been saying you have to please yourself as a writer, because there’s no one with you, day in and day out. You have to make choices you believe in; if you don’t, what’s the point? This doesn’t mean refusing to listen to feedback — it’s not that simple or ignorant. I believe in learning and growing; I believe I’m a better writer than I was ten years ago, but not half the writer I’m going to be, because I want to learn and grow. Everything I learn helps me to understand the chioces I make, and to pick the best one for me out of the available alternatives.

So that’s my credo, the one I’ve been preaching to anyone who will listen (and possibly to a few people who didn’t want to).

The other night, I experienced pleasing myself from another angle. On one of the bookshelves in my bedroom, I have copies of both my published books. I’m not sure what prompted me to do it, but I picked up Lord Sebastian’s Wife, my second book, and started reading it.

I couldn’t put it down.

I feel a little weird admitting that about a book I wrote, but I wrote this particular book so long ago, it might as well have been written by someone else. (In a lot of ways, it was written by someone else; I’m not the woman I was then.) I remember the general storyline and some of the scenes were familiar, so that it was like re-reading a keeper I haven’t revisited in a while. I sank into the story as if it were a keeper, and all the while I realized how true it is to say I wrote this to please myself. Without entirely knowing that I was doing this when I wrote Lord Sebastian’s Wife, I wrote a book the reader in me would love, and that makes me very happy.

I need to remember this, and try to do it every time I tell a story.

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