See yourself through someone else’s eyes

Sage CohenProductive writing6 Comments

Three years after becoming an author, my first official book review–of The Productive Writer, by Marj Hahne–has just been published in the Spring 2012 issue of Rain Taxi Review of Books. The review begins:

Thank the writing gods that Sage Cohen “compensated for insecurity by being overprepared.” Her second guide for writers, The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success, is generous, comprehensive, pragmatic, and optimistic—and departs from its kin by saying things we haven’t already read or heard a gazillion times.

The review goes on to reflect back to me the spirit and intention and love and passion that drove me to write this book in the first place. There is no gift like seeing oneself and one’s writing through the eyes of an appreciative reader.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be so much harder on myself than anyone else seems to be. It helps me tremendously to exit the loop of my own “mean editor” and invite someone else’s feedback into the conversation I’m having with myself. Many years before I had books or poems circulating in the world, my friend Sebastian was my one and only reader. I’d write a poem, read it to her, and see on her face the mysterious alchemy of emotion and experience traveling from one heart to another, conducted by language. That simple circuit of my writing and her reading was enough to ease my loneliness and help me believe that my writing mattered. To this day, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing I’ve written something that Sebastian appreciates.

Do you have someone specific in mind as your reader when you write? Do you regularly share your work with this person and invite them to tell you what they admire and enjoy about each piece they read? There’s plenty of time for critique, and plenty of people who’d be happy to tell you what needs fixing in your writing. That’s not what I’m talking about. My hope for you is that you have (or will soon find) one person who will simply and reliably revel in your words.

Writing, reveling, writing, reveling. How sweet the writing life can be when we give ourselves what we really need.

6 Comments on “See yourself through someone else’s eyes”

  1. Oh, what a lovely review! And they’re right, such a generous book — the best how-to-be-a-writer book I’ve ever read.

    Yes, an audience who really gets it! One is plenty, and means so much more than a thousand who don’t really get it. If I was going to give one bit of advice to people about writing, it would be this: cultivate people who get it. Forget contacts and “people who know people”: what you need is people who know *you*.

    (Lovely to see you again, Sage! Speaking of people who get it — :->)

  2. I love this post, Sage, especially the “mean editor” reference. I use a good friend for revel time. She is not afraid to say what she doesn’t like, but she’s also not afraid to point out what she loves. She called her sister and asked, “Do you know how many times I’ve spread a thin jam of vagueness on my face?”, referencing a line in my novel, which prompted her sister to ask what she was reading. Don’t know if I’ll ever be published, but that was definitely a winning moment from a first read because of my reveler!

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