Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Flaw Goggles

By DeAnna Knippling

So at my house we have this phrase, “flaw goggles”. It’s what happens when you look at your work or your abilities, and all you can see are the flaws.

My husband came up with it. He started woodworking about five years ago or so. He builds me furniture. For example I have a bookshelf in my office of which I am fiercely protective; he keeps threatening to take it apart and rebuild it.

Personally, I can’t see any flaws in the bookshelf, even though he assures me that there are a lot of them. Nevertheless, it’s my bookshelf, and he can’t have it back.

Writing is like that, too.

Sometimes, all we can see are the flaws.

This always hits me especially hard after I’ve read something particularly good that someone else has written. I always feel the bitterest failure. And then, when something good happens to me, I feel like a complete and utter fake. There are days I have to force myself to admit my successes, because they never feel deserved.

Because of the flaw goggles.

What to do if you’re in the grip of flaw goggles?

Personally, I find it a big help to have my husband there, calling me out when I start complaining about what a terrible writer I am. And, really, trying to get the flaw goggles out of your life in general is a pretty broad task without a quick and easy solution.

But, well, to play a tune that I’ve played before--

You just have to send it. Or publish it. Or whatever.

Sure, there are going to be issues with your story. But you can’t “fix” a bookshelf by fussing with it for years and years and years. Once that bookshelf is built, you have two choices: take it apart or use it.

Likewise, you can’t “fix” a story by fussing with the words for years and years. You can either get it into a reader’s or editor’s hands, or you can delete it. Everything else is just a delaying tactic.

In the end, I still just see the flaws in the things I write. All the flaws, all the time. I don’t think you get to be a real craftsperson and ever just feel satisfied with what you’ve made. I mean, you might be ninety percent satisfied...but you will always have some part of your brain that’s assessing what you just did and trying to figure out how to make it better.

Is that a bad thing, wanting to improve? Nah. The problem isn’t that we can see flaws. It’s that we choose to get emotionally screwed up when we see them.

Yes, you’re going to encounter nay-sayers who are driven by the idea that you have to have some kind of magnificent masterpiece before you’re allowed to release things into the wild. It’s certainly a safer approach, to have the experience of a master writer under your belt before you make your work public.

But is it a practical approach?

How do you become a master craftsperson if you never let anyone else see your work? If you never have the feedback of a friend saying, “You know, the stain on this bookshelf is magnificent...but next time, some shelves would be nice,” then how do you become a master craftsperson?

You can’t bootstrap yourself if you’re not allowed to bootstrap yourself until you’ve already bootstrapped yourself. And there’s only so far you can go as a selling writer if you’re not allowing yourself to try to get sales until you’ve already had sales.

So send it.

Sure, another craftsperson might take a look at your work and point out that there’s a rough spot you forgot to sand (or even a complete lack of shelves). But they have flaw goggles, too.

And, believe me, there are plenty of people who just need a set of bookshelves.

About the Author: DeAnna Knippling started freelancing in May 2011 and wouldn’t be able to do it without her wonderful family and friends, especially her husband. In fact, she owes a lot to Pikes Peak Writers for helping her be a better writer, especially through the Write Brains, both in the lectures and in meeting lots of other writers.

Her reason for writing is to entertain by celebrating her family’s tradition of dry yet merry wit, and to help ease the suffering of lack of self-confidence, having suffered it many years herself. She also likes to poke around and ask difficult questions, because she hates it when people assume something must be so.

For more kicks in the writerly pants, see her blog at or her ebook How to Fail & Keep on Writing, available at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, and OmniLit.

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