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Good writers will always break your heart

4 min read

You have a favorite author. You read everything they write and whenever there’s a new book by them, you buy it, no questions asked. Truth is that one day they will disappoint you. But they will do that because they’re good writers.

They may repeat a formula and end up making their books feel the same and not interesting. But there’s something different in all of them. They may try something new other than their usual historical or science fiction and write a bad book of fantasy. But they tried to navigate other seas. You might find their early works and notice how not so good they were. Their failures (from your perspective) will frustrate you too.

So, there’s no way out. They will always break your heart. But you should forgive them…

You know. Everything is part of evolution and experimenting is a rule for every creative person. Things will go wrong, and they must go wrong, and you can’t do anything about it.

My favorite author, Machado de Assis, for instance, was a prolific writer and he was influenced by other Brazilian authors of his time and the French romanticists of his past centuries. His first short stories and poems were not exactly his best work, yet a lot of them were good, and they had a lot of potential and growing seeds of his actual style and voice.

It wasn’t, however, until he wrote his first avant-garde novel about a man who died and decided to tell his story that he finally became the writer we all know and that made him my favorite author.

So, writers must know or have a reader in mind but they should never be obligated to please all their readers. WE should never care about broken hearts. We all should understand that this quest for great creative works might end up in failure and this will disappoint our readers when they don’t understand why we did it.

Here’s how writing and creativity works:

You build something. If it’s not good, you deconstruct it, learn what went wrong, and in your next attempt, you try to build something else. Now, you build something else. If it’s good, you reproduce the process to build something similar but new, trying different things until you find what pleases you and your audience. If new things don’t work, you start from the point it worked.

Then you build something similar that works but at some point, doing the same thing over and over makes you bored. Then you start something new. From scratch. And you make mistakes all over again, like an amateur. Your experiments with creativity become infinite. And not doing that should be the actual thing that frustrates our audience (and us).

We shouldn’t sweat it with bad reviews and bad feedback, mistakes and things that went wrong, nor broken-hearted readers, if all we’re trying is to create. We’re doing experiments, trying to one-up our previous works, but it won’t work every time. When we know that we’re honing our crafts by doing it, by challenging ourselves, by taking risks, by trying, anything else doens’t matter.

In Brazil, we say that we don’t change a team that’s winning, meaning we shouldn’t touch something that’s working. And I often hear mediocre people repeating Voltaire or Confucius or Shakespeare’s maxim that trying to achieve the best, we can mar what’s good or well. I don’t think that they wanted to create a group of mediocre people with those thoughts.

I think people mistake these two ideas by not trying to evolve or do their best. Because perfectionism and seeking the best seems to have become a bad thing this days. While I think we should find a hybrid form of seeking perfection without losing opportunities. And that’s what I’m talking about. We have the tools for doing the best we can, and there’s nothing wrong with marring the well or chasing the “enemy of the good”, nor changing what’s working.

If we care about broken hearts and not doing the best while trying to, and if we fear to change what’s working, we will never evolve in our creative projects.

Now, between the lines…

Have any author ever broken your heart? I have a little list here… And do you really think that we should not try our best?

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