It can seem very heroic, can't it, to have an all-embracing sense of your flaws. To beat our critique partners to the punch by saying, I know it's terrible because of x, and y, and z.
And because drafts have flaws, and because we aren't perfect (yay!), we have a point.
There will always be weaknesses in what we do.
But there will also be strengths.
I don't care how execrable your latest draft was: If you itch to write stuff down, then you have a strength.
Whether it's your point of view, your perspective, your sense of pacing, your grip on setting, your flair for unusual conflict, your lovable characters...
Face it, writer-friend: Somewhere, somewhere, your writing has some strengths.
Here's what I want you to do: Make 'em stronger.
Work on your best points. Find where you glow, and become incandescent. Light it up.
"But no, no," comes the protest. "We have to focus on our weaknesses, right? Find all the bad places and make them better. Right?"
Well, okay. There's a time to focus on weaknesses and make them better. To build up those places.
But I want to introduce you to this crazy, revolutionary practice of appreciations, taken from Making Ideas Happen:
When Scott Belsky went to a storytelling workshop, led by Jay O'Callahan, he and the other participants took turns telling their stories. And after each story, the rest of the group would talk about what the teller had done well, what they appreciated.
They talked about the strengths.
And then, the storyteller would take all that feedback, rework the story, and share it again.
If you're like me, your first reaction to this is: But what about all the weaknesses?
Here's how Belsky describes the effect:
"I noticed that a natural recalibration happens when you commend someone's strengths: their weaknesses are lessened as their strengths are emphasized. ... The points of weakness withered away naturally as the most beautiful parts became stronger."
So... the weaknesses get taken care of, when we bring out what was good?
When we lean on our strongest and best points, the crappy bits fade?
BONUS: The storyteller is not writhing on the ground in tatters. I call that a win.
So here's what I propose: Next time someone reads your writing to give feedback, ask them to tell you the three things that they most appreciated.
And try revising based on that.
Belsky writes: "A creative craft is made extraordinary through developing your strengths rather than obsessing over your weaknesses."
See, that's what got me thinking about superheroes.
Superheroes tend to have one specific extreme ability. And then there are a few strengths that support that, that help make that useable. (And they have a suit, maybe a cape. You can get those too if you like.)
Find your three top strengths (or more!). Nourish them. Exercise them. Make them stronger still.
And then you're basically a writing superhero. And that piece of writing you've been revising? Extraordinary.
Not because you've been focusing on a detailed list of all your failings, and trying to bring them up to par. Nope. You already have some gold there.
Get your readers' help finding it, polish it up, and make it the centerpiece.
Unleash your strengths.