I never get to read my own work

February 13, 2014

That’s a lie, of course. I read my writing all the time, when I’m editing it. I don’t get to read it like you do, though. I never get to sit down and take it in without expectations. I’m always tweaking, testing, fixing mistakes. That’s not the same.

Did you know that I’ve never sat down and read my own book? It’s an odd feeling, to spend so much time on a thing but not see it in the way others will. Understandable, perhaps, but odd. After all, it’s hard for me to read it without finding things I want to fix.

I feel like this is something I need to work on. There have been times I’ve missed the forest for the trees, when I’ve left big, gaping holes in my story because I never stepped far enough back to take in the whole thing. I need to slow down, read through the whole thing without making changes, and look for the big stuff.

Writers don’t read their own work like readers do. We read them like writers. We need to be able to read like both though, to see what you see, because that’s the most important view of all.

My combo counter: 33 days.

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By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply


    I’d add one more thing – bias. Even the best writers are predisposed towards their own work, ideas and preferences. It’s almost impossible to be objective towards your own creation – especially if it’s something you hold dear. What you like isn’t always what your audience likes and vice-versa. There’s a bit of inherent conflict with that. Good writing, IMO, doesn’t pander to any set audience (thus reading as heavy-handed, cliche, generic or “fake”), but one should avoid potentially alienating readers via a closed mindset as well..

    Another issue, as you allude to, is over familiarity. Something I fall prey to often when it comes to proofing. :/ I know what I want to say, and make mental corrections subconsciously when “proofing” which leads to missing “typos”, poor phrasing, etc. In terms of a story, that could lead to lack of attention to detail. The writer knows the story so well that what seems clear to him or her isn’t all that clear to a reader b/c the writer is mentally inserting information which isn’t on the page.

    At least for me, after reading something for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. time, you get sick of going over the same thing repeatedly, and thus have a tendency to rush through it which of course defeats the purpose of review.. I’ve caught myself making that mistake more frequently than I’d like to admit. At such times I have to go back and force myself to read each word carefully to make sure that not only grammar is correct, but also diction, logical consistency, etc.

    One trick I was told was to simply take a break. Step away from whatever you’re working on, do something else to clear your mind. Then go back to edit/proofing. That’s not always possible, but it does help from my experience.

    IMO, being your own editor is a tough thing to do. Certainly necessary, but ideally another “set of eyes” would be available for additional review/feedback before considering any work in final form.

    1. Reply


      Bias and over familiarity are problems as well, they’re just ones I already understood. I praise my editor and proofreaders for continually catching my screw ups. It’s this idea that I can’t sit down and just read through it like a normal person that is…well, not new either. It struck me though, when I wrote this yesterday.

      Breaks are good though. I’ll often take a break and do nothing, just flop down on my bed and stare at nothing until the pressure goes away and I can get back to editing. I don’t force myself to read every word carefully, though. My editors will have fresh eyes like you said, so they’ll catch that stuff. I just read and fix/tweak what I can. I’d like to get better at just reading though, so I can fix the big stuff.

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