Thought of the Week: On Reading One’s Own Writing

As I begin to gear up toward the February release of The Redemption of Erâth: Exile, I find myself reading and re-reading the book itself over and over again. This is a natural process, I’m certain, of anyone who’s every published a book, but you get interesting looks from people when they ask you what you’re reading.

It’s a curious fact that artists aren’t supposed to enjoy their own work.

“It’s actually my own book.”

“Really? Isn’t that a bit … conceited?”

It’s a curious fact that artists aren’t supposed to enjoy their own work. Or at least, that’s how it seems sometimes; after all, look at the response the online community had when Shia Labeouf decided to watch every Shia Labeouf movie in order. And of course, there’s the perpetual stereotype of the perfectionist artist, never satisfied with their own work. Johannes Brahms is said to have burned his early manuscripts because he thought they sucked so much.

Now this isn’t to say that an artist shouldn’t seek to perfect their craft. But perfection (if such a thing is attainable) is created through endless work and repetition. It would be unfair to the artists, and to the world, if every artist was to be allowed only a single work to endure, with all previous attempts marked for destruction.

The truth is, I think, that most artists create what they do because they enjoy it. A painter paints in the style that impresses him the most; a musician plays what inspired her the most. I write fantasy because I love the genre, and wanted to contribute something to it.

This isn’t to say that we aren’t allowed in indulge outside of our respective realms—I enjoy Charles Dickens as much as Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. But for every artist there is something that draws them to create in the first place, and most often it’s in imitation of their influences.

So ultimately, when I read and re-read my own books, I find myself enjoying them rather a lot. Are there mistakes? Of course. Plot holes? Check. Things that I think I’d like to rewrite if I could? Oh, absolutely. But for me, once a piece of work is out there in the world, it belongs to the world, so to speak—it would be dishonest of me to retract it, and say it isn’t good enough. Is The Redemption of Erâth: Consolation good? I think so, yes. Not perfect, but good enough. It’s done; let’s move on and make the next book even better.

For those of you who’ve read Consolation, I hope you’ll be excited by what happens in Exile. For those of you who haven’t, consider picking up a copy. It’s only $3.99, and it’ll last you a good few weeks as your read through it. And who knows? You might just find your new favorite series, like Neil or my friend Jesse at work. Maybe you’ll hate it. I wouldn’t want you to, but you’re certainly entitled to your opinion.

As for me, I’ll continue to write, and I’ll continue to read what I write, and enjoy it.

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