“I try to distinguish between a poem I like because it reminds me of a particular experience,” said Paul Willis, “and a poem that works as a poem that anyone would like.”
How do you quality inspect your writing?
I like to think of Paul in his clean room outfit—white hazmat suit, magnifying glass, radiation badge—lifting up each poem, turning it over in his hands, and scanning his poems with his Geiger counter (does the poem glow?).
The key to revision is objectivity. Can you step into your readers’ eyes? Can you set aside your personal feelings about your writing and look at it from a stranger’s perspective?
You need to.
It’s fine to write for yourself. Writing is fun and it feels good, but the difference between the writer and the hobbyist is that the hobbyist writes only for themselves. The writer (also) writes for others.
Which are you going to be?
Let’s practice looking at our writing from the perspective of our readers.
First, go and find one of your practices you’ve done on the Write Practice. If you haven’t done any of our exercises, try this one on my friend Jeff Goins’ blog about describing your surroundings.
The average book reader is a forty-two-year-old woman, so pretend you are a forty-two-year-old woman. Let’s call her Sue.
Re-read your exercise as Sue. Would Sue like your writing? Why or why not? Would she think it was pertinent to her life? Would Sue consider it a gift?
Post “Sue’s” thoughts about your writing in the comments. How did you do?