Wednesday, December 7, 2011

5 Reasons to Shed the Genius Within

One of the problems we often have to face as writers is thinking our work is pure genius. We've come up with the next bestseller, we've written a masterpiece of prose, producers will be scrambling to get the movie rights to our story. Wonderful dreams, but they aren't necessarily a good thing. Below I've listed the reasons why we should shed the genius within us.

1. A genius doesn't need to work hard to achieve great results. If we think our work is genius, then we will be less likely to seek second opinions. We will cloud our minds in fairy floss fantasies of the brilliance of our work and fail to see it needs at least another two editing passes (minimum) before it's ready.

2. We need permission to fail. As a genius, the expectations as so high, that we begin to throw those expectations on ourselves. We begin to judge our work too early and think we need to achieve perfection. Inevitably writer's block will come knocking because we can't meet those expectations. We need to give ourselves permission to fail so we have the freedom to explore, experiment and improve.

3. It's not realistic. Yes, we should dream, but we need to dream with our feet firmly planted on the ground. If we forget the realism of our dreams, then we could fall a long way when those dreams fail to realise.

4. We need to know we are normal. There is a perception that geniuses don't make mistakes, but even they get it wrong. Recently Einstein's theory of relativity has come under question with scientists possibly pushing objects faster than the speed of light. As writers, we need to know that when we have doubts, it's okay and it's normal. We need to know it's sometimes a struggle to get the words down on the page and that's nothing unusual. 

5. A genius stands alone. They are set apart from the rest of the world and are often disconnected from the majority. But writers need support and we need to make connections with our readers.

This post was written for the Insecure Writers' Support Group. 

How often do you think your work is sheer brilliance only to discover it could do with some improvement? What do you do to keep your feet on the ground?


  1. it is also true that most of the writing geniuses, the classic ones, really did stand alone being reclusive and weird :)

  2. Hm, I think I'm a creative genius most days, sure, but that's more a curse usually, considering it makes me absentminded (among other things). If I was less creative than I am, I would be a much better writer. My creativity impedes my writing ability.

    If there's an intersection in the writing world between creativity and writing ability, I'm probably standing about 100 miles away from it down Creativity Street.

  3. I personally love the whole creative process - which happens to include having a crappy mess to begin with, and honing it gradually into something so much better!

  4. Great post! I love #2. It's SO easy to judge our work too early. It can really cramp a rough draft. I've read that it's also good NOT to read a how-to book on writing while you are writing a ms. Do it afterward! I really get paranoid and critical if I start analyzing too much in the rough stages.

  5. I think all my first drafts are genius, until I go back and re-read them. :P

    Really great points.

  6. I tend to think of geniuses as being effortlessly intelligent. That would give me a big ego. It would make all of those rejection letters sting pretty bad. Yes, I agree, shed the genius. A genius would have a time terrible time as a writer.

  7. This is one problem I don't wrestle with too often. : ) I may have moments of thinking that something I'm working on is fabulous, but these don't last long. And I don't think I've ever considered anything genius. And yet I still love writing. Hmmm.

  8. Awesome post. I completely agree with you. I use to hold myself up to such high expectations. I could never meet them. I sometimes still have my moments when the genius rears her bloated head, but I can accept failure as a learning process now.

  9. Me? A writing genius? Not a chance! I knew better from the very beginning.

  10. Sadly, I've never thought I was a writing genius - that might be nice for a moment or two though! :)

  11. If I ever did think so, I certainly don't anymore after writing my books and noticing that the world isn't clamoring for them. The more books I write the more I realize how poor I am in the talent department.

  12. Dezzy, ah, the good ole days...

    Nick, yeah, creativity is what you use when you write the first draft, and then the real writing kicks in for the edits ;) That's the theory anyway.

    Trisha, it's a satisfying process, isn't it?

    Carol, yes! Great point about not reading how-to writing books while writing the first draft. That inner editor is a pesky thing.

    Luanne, maybe the trick is not to re-read them ;)

    McKenzie, I don't think rejection letters sting any more or less for anyone ;)

  13. Cynthia, ah, yes, it all comes down to loving what we do.

    Christine, yes! Those high expectations can never be met. Ever.

    Alex, Ha! I suppose it's a good place to start, but you are fooling yourself if you think you lack at least some genius. ;)

    Jemi, the dreams are great ;)

    Karen, I don't think talent necessarily has much to do with popularity.

  14. I always start off thinking my story is rubbish so when it's confirmed that it is, it's then not so bad! LOL! take care

  15. Lyn, what an incredibly insightful post. I love no. 2, and believe I have been moving in that obvious direction all of my life!

  16. Great post. There are only a few times when an artist feels like she really hit the sweet spot in writing, art, music, whatever. Usually it takes hours and hours of work to get to that one fleeting moment.

  17. I never feel my books are ever quite ready. There is always something else to do or a revision to make. But you have to get to that point where you let go and take that leap of faith.

  18. Very good points. Great post.

  19. Nicely expressed. I only dream of creating brilliantly genius material but never think of my craft that way. The writing world, and life itself, is so good about humbling a person. I have no worries my ego will get the best of me; I can rarely even find it.

  20. LOL I loved this. Okay, I admit there are times I think, "wow, I really wrote something good here," and then my CPs proceed to point out this and that and my feet come slamming back to the ground:)

  21. Excellent comments. I often start thinking my stuff is good and then after a few thousand words the self doubt gremlins start muttering in my ear and I begin to believe my stuff is terribly mediocre. Sometimes though I think my stuff is the best and it doesn't get chosen, then I wonder if that's pride going before the inevitable fall...

  22. I think even if you are amazingly talented, you have to work hard to be successful. And you never ever have control over anyone else's perceptions of your writing. Great post!

  23. That's why I love my beta readers. They bring me back down to earth fast. It's so important not to think high of yourself because then you don't think you need to keep improving your writing craft. Great post.

  24. I knew from the start I wasn't a genius. I just want to write well and come up with a good story.

  25. The only time my works comes close to brilliance is when it's merely a seed of an idea in my own mind, lol. The second I try to execute it, my brilliance evaporates!

    These are great reminders, even for us genius wannabees. :)

  26. Great post! I just blogged for IWSG about the need for writers to have two inner voices - one that thinks the work is pure genius and another that thinks it is drivel. I love your reasons for shedding the thoughts of genius. Great insights.

  27. You mean I'm not a genius, that my writing isn't perfection from the word go, that it's not a masterpiece waiting to be discovered and made into the next blockbuster starring Brad Pitt? Really? Hahaha!

    I just came from The Golden Eagle's blog where he posted about writing something one day and coming back to it the next and thinking how crappy it is. That's more my style. And after reading your list, I'm struck even more by how much genius I truly lack.

  28. I'm just a storyteller. No act of genius here. I just hope people read and enjoy my stories.

    Okay, I know I was already following you. I'm guessing you have multiple blogs. I'm following this one now. :)

  29. Kitty, haha yeah, it takes me about a decade to realise my work isn't as bad as I thought ;)

    Suze, you're so sweet

    Mary, yes! The best writing looks effortless but there's blood, sweat and tears behind the words.

    Stephen, exactly right

    Maggie, thanks

    Robyn, oh yes, I can relate, but dreaming is still important.

    Terri, gotta love our CPs :)

    Madeleine, there's always that question in the back of my mind too ;)

  30. "Genius"... way to heavy to carry around.

  31. Tonja, yes, exactly right, although not all talented people know this and their talent goes to waste.

    Clarissa, yes, even established writers should keep improving their craft.

    Joanne, it's a great goal.

    J B Chicoine, oh yes, but those seeds ARE brilliant because they carry so much potential within them.

    Suze, I'll pop right over and have a read. Sounds great.

    Nancy, oh yes, you ARE a genius, but you need to keep it contained otherwise people will get jealous ;)

    Ciara, welcome my new follower! ;) No worries, it happens. And yes!! being a storyteller first is the right approach, I think.

    Robert, another great reason! :)

  32. I go through phases of loving and hating my I guess you could say I am bipolar!

  33. The ideas I have in the middle of the night are always genius. I just wish I could remember them :-)

  34. Jessie, yes, I can relate to that ;)

    Sarah, hahaha! Brilliant! How awesome would it be to remember those ideas

    Harry, you too.

  35. Interesting post. I never think of my work as pure genius. I think my work is never good enough for others to read.

  36. hmm... the few times I've thought my work was sheer genius, my brain immediately shut down and I was flooded with doubt. Like within the first 5 seconds of having the thought. So I don't really have this problem--LOL! I KNOW I need support and readers, etc. But I suppose if anyone does think this, well, maybe they are. We'll see~ :D

  37. At this point in my life I think I'd be happy to be an average writer and a marketing genius. When I've written something I might tend to elevate it a bit in my evaluation, but if I give it some time that genius writing usually comes down to a realistic level.

    A Faraway View

  38. Hello - I absolutely loved the post - I with i had genius to get rid of, but I do have a perfectionist inside me who does my head in 24/7 re writing! Grr! Just to let you know you were awarded a blog award today by me ;D = hope you can stop by to accept it. XX

  39. The genius is what makes you think you're worth more than everyone else, when in fact, you're not.

  40. My crit partners keep me grounded.

    Wish I felt 'genius' more often. :)

  41. Assume it's not going to be perfect--and keep the dreaming to a minimum. Though I will dream about my writing now and then.

  42. I wish I had more confidence. I think my lack of it hinders the querying process. I wish you could run to Walgreen's and get a prescription for confidence. :D

  43. These are five great points. Many geniuses are very full of themselves, isolated - and many quickly burn out. Learn from them what you can, but don't emulate them.

  44. Lynda..did you by chance read my mind. Lol. I always feel that whatever I have written is pure genius, then I land on my backside when my editor send me her feedback.

  45. Great points - I love the last one. And I also love the amazing community of writers online.

  46. Great post! I don't have an issue with thinking I'm a writing genius, I don't think, lol, but I do have moments where I'm so pumped that I'm making so much progress with a short story or a section in a novel and then I go back and read it and it seems so stunted or there is another issue.

  47. I was overly critical of my work until I came across a quoted paragraph on a blog that I thought was brilliant and it wasn't until I got to the end of the post that I realized it was a quote from my book. I have to remind myself of that event when I'm having a bad writing day.

  48. Looking over my first drafts bring me back to reality. My critique group and beta readers also ground me. Great list, Lynda.

  49. Great post! I thought I was the only one plagued with doubts, Lol!

  50. Susanne, and that's the other swing of the pendulum. Finding balance in all things is key, I think.

    Leigh, ah yes, that sounds so familiar :)

    Lee, to be a marketting genius is a great thing!

    Shah, thanks so much for the award!

    Lydia, well said

    Mary, ha, same

    Golden, absolutely. And yes, it's good to dream too.

    Sharon, haha that would be cool.

    Anthony, also well said.

    Rachna, yes! Editors are great for keeping us grounded.

    Michelle, we need that community

    Shannon, haha yep, that happens all the time for me too.

    Cozy, oh wow, that would have given you a buzz.

    Medeia, yes, those first drafts of ours are terrible. It's a good thing they don't need to be anything more than that. ;)

    Romance, definitely not. :)

  51. Lynda, l have written- rewritten - a book for over 9 yrs. Due to Circumstances Tragedy's & Accidents- 1 as recent as May 2016- causing Major Surgery to my right hand & arm. My being Right-Handed, made getting my book edited & published Impossible to Accomplish my 9 yr Embarking on bringing my Endeavor to Fruition. Seems Everytime I was close to Publishing the Above Mentioned Circumstances, etc, Got In the Way. Bummers.
    I also illustrated the cover of my book. Writer/Artist.
    I am starting to get some use back due to 6 Nerve Blocks. Still have a ways to go. I've been gathering the Poem's I have written to be published in a Book of Poetry. However,I still realize my Novel , written over 9 yrs, Published & Out There.
    Does this Endeavor still seem Possible? I have had Reader's of All Walks of Life read my book & suggested I continue getting my Book ready for publishing so It can be purchased.
    Comment Appreciated
    Thank you

    1. Hi Sandy, of course your dream is not impossible. I strongly suggest you get an editor to look over your work to ensure it's the best it can be and so that it comes across as a professional piece.


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