Currently, I am sweating over my Creative Writing MA portfolio. This has meant scaling back the blogging, or at least, only doing stuff that repeats every week. As I’ve said before, the writing is easy, having ideas is hard.So, for this week’s blog post about writing: the painful art of commentating on your own work.
You might think blog posts about writing might prepare me for the 2,500 words commentary I have to produce about my 16,000 word portfolio. I hoped so too, but it turns out I never talk in detail about my own work, only that of other people, mostly in broad strokes. Nonetheless, here is what I have found so far whilst commentating my own material.
“I am awesome, yet modest.”
A lot of writers and creative people look at their work and see only flaws. But, not just for critical commentaries but life in general, you have to see the up-side. I want my MA tutors to give me good marks, and further down the line, I may want publishers to pay me money for my stuff.
And if that’s going to happen, I need to be able to point out its good points with conviction, without sounding deluded. I am aware my work has weaknesses, but am definitely bringing them up after the positive stuff. And possibly in fewer words.
“Truthfully, readers, I dare not contemplate the majesty.”
I need to sound more pretentious than I do, really. My tone in the commentaries, although not quite as conversational as these blogs, isn’t that much more serious and heavy. And, when trying to push yourself as a proper thoughtful creative, should I be able to talk about “themes” and “motivations” in a way that would make many people (including me) want to mock me? Perhaps.
“The process matters more than the outcome.”
Yes, I quoted The West Wing. Anyway, I’m not sure that’s strictly true, but creative process is interesting for some, and it’s good to be willing to talk about yours, both to seem accessible and build interest (someone out there might read your process and then check out the story) and because, you know, it’s useful to write this stuff down as a thinking exercise. So be honest and try to think about exactly what you did. If nothing else, it fills up the word count.
Anyway, I hope that’s useful to anyone else who finds themselves having to do one of these commentaries, or even just discuss their own work in general. If you’ve had to write a commentary for any reason, feel free to share any advice in the comments, I still have 60% of the thing left to do.