Archive for December 7th, 2007

Drunk on Your Own Words

December 07th, 2007 | Category: Writing Tips

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You sit down in the computer for a few minutes, hoping to whip up a quick story post. Then an idea hits you. It’s vague at first, but it has a certain sparkle of possibility. You start constructing a post, becoming more convinced with every word that you’re onto something.

The feeling grows and grows until your fingers are flying across the keyboard. The words are flowing, and you’re saying exactly what you want to say, exactly the way you want to say it. You bring the post to a close with an ending that you can only describe as, “Perfect,” and then pause to read what you’ve written.

A smile spreads across your face. It’s clever, original… brilliant. You only hesitate for a second before posting it to the story. “I can’t wait to see what they say about that,” you think. You walk away from the computer, sure you’ve written a masterpiece.

A couple of hours pass and you come back to reread your post. As you scan through it, you feel a weight in the pit of your stomach. This post isn’t brilliant. It’s arrogant, disconnected, and desperate for attention.

“What was I thinking?” you ask yourself. And I’ll tell you: you weren’t thinking. You were drunk on your own words.

Master writers have long described good writing as hypnotic. It draws readers in, using its flow and rhythm to put people in a state of higher suggestibility, making it easier for you to sell them something.

It’s a dirty analogy, but it’s similar to getting them drunk. Each point you make is like pouring them another glass, slowly washing away their objections, tugging on their emotions, and leading them toward the sale without them even realizing it.

But it’s a two-way street.

When you’re writing, you can put yourself into the same state. Like a brewer drinking your own product, you can intoxicate yourself during the act of creation.

It’s happened to me plenty of times. Fortunately though, I’ve learned to recognize it and walk away before posting something foolish to a story here on the VE. And thus, here are a few warning signs that you should look for:

1) You Think the Post Is Brilliant

I’ve noticed that, whenever I finish a post and think it’s brilliant, there’s at least a 50% chance that it’s not. Frequently, it’s just pandering for attention, and I’ll regret posting it later.

2. You Think the Post Is Hilarious

Humor is dangerous. Not only do people have drastically different opinions on what’s funny, but there’s a fine line between making your readers laugh and offending them to a point where they lose interest and wander out.

The only way to know for sure is to run it by someone. Comedy writers work as a team for a reason. Sometimes, you’re being funny. Other times, you’re just being an ass. And more times than naught, its the later.

3. Your Heart Is Pounding

If your heart is pounding, then you’re definitely in some sort of heightened state, and it’s easy to move too fast. Whenever I drink lots of caffeine, for instance, my heartbeat and writing output both speed up, but the posts don’t make as much sense. Writing after watching a good movie or reading a powerful piece of writing can create the same effect.

4. You Can’t Wait to See How People React

Thoughts like, “I can’t wait to see what kinds of comments I get on IRC” and, “This should get some conversation going” are surefire indicators that you’ve written something risky. It could be bold, but it might just be brash.

5. Your Stomach Tightens up

Sometimes, you’re writing something that makes absolute sense, but you notice your stomach starting to tighten up. This is your subconscious trying to tell you that a part of you disagrees with what you are saying. Pay attention!

6. You Hesitate before Clicking “Post”

If your mouse hovers over the “Post” button, hesitating for a moment before putting it out for the world to see, then you’ve written something that you know is risky. You should probably hold off and figure out what’s bothering you about it. This is the most surefire method that something is wrong. If you can’t find anything, let someone else read over it by PMing it to them or something of the like.

There you have it, the possibilities that can make you think you have a brilliant post, while in actuality it may just be one that is barely decent, or worse.

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