It’s time for a true confession. I recently had to revisit a long held opinion about something and change it. I know! Some of you already know that I was a school librarian for a number of years. In the course of my work as a librarian, I was fortunate enough to attend many conferences. Second true confession, I love going to conferences. They are like a candy stores of ideas, but I digress.
When John Green wrote his first few novels, before The Fault in Our Stars, he was a big deal to librarians. We love great YA writing, and he is a great writer. So I was excited to see him on panels and in presentations. Well, I don’t know if it was because he was being guarded by agents and conference VIPs, or if it was because maybe he is a little shy and socially awkward, or maybe I was just having an off day, who knows, he came off as very full of himself whenever I saw him speak. So, I started avoiding his presentations at conferences.
I just didn’t like him. I liked his books, and I even started watching his Crash Course videos, because our AP teachers used them in class, but I just couldn’t warm up to him as a person. I hung on to that first and second impression I had of him being kind of arrogant.
Well, fast forward to one of my recent morning runs. I sometimes listen to Guy Raz’s How I Built This and the guests for an episode were John Green and his brother Hank, the Vlog Brothers. I grudgingly decided to listen. I was curious about their business Complexly, you can probably guess why…
I am so glad I did. I learned a lot of things about John Green that I never knew, like for instance that it takes a whole team to make those Crash Course videos and they donate most of the profits from their businesses to charity. Suffice it to say, I had to revise my opinion of John Green. It turns out, he is actually a great guy who suffers from some anxiety, so maybe that’s why he seemed arrogant the first few times I saw him. It was early in his career, so who knows. The point is, I had to revise my thinking about something when I received new information that challenged my beliefs.
So, it is true we all have to revise our opinions occasionally, but what does this have to do with writing? Everything. Sometimes when we revise, we have to throw out a whole lot of stuff. Stuff we might be attached to. I was pretty attached to my opinion of John Green. I like being an outlier, so I liked thinking that I wasn’t swayed by his epic writing talent and extreme popularity, I was DIFFERENT. But when I learned more facts, I decided I was wrong and that my opinion had changed.
Maybe you’ve gotten some tough feedback about something in your story not working. But I am DIFFERENT, you say to yourself. Maybe you are, but is there a chance something really isn’t working and needs to be revised? Is it possible that you need to throw out some much beloved scenes because they don’t advance the plot, even though you love them?
It’s hard to let go, but it is also freeing. Letting go of something means having the ability to hold onto something else. I can let go of thinking John Green is arrogant and hold onto the love I have for his books and videos, and his mission to keep educational content forever free. Teachers need all the help they can get!
What can you let go of in your current WIP? What can you hold onto?
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