How to Have Autonomy Over Your Writing

Have the confidence to know your writing capabilities and don’t listen to wavering opinions

Courtenay S. Gray
May 4 · 5 min read
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

If The New Yorker told you that your writing is the worst they’ve ever seen and never to write again, would you listen? What if you gathered five people in a room from a myriad of backgrounds and gave them the same book to read? What would happen? Each of them would have a different opinion on the book, one may loathe it, and one may think it’s the greatest thing ever written. This is the crucial point I want to explore here.

I have always had confidence in my capabilities and admiration for the work I create. However, I often see lots of writers doubt their work and place far too much trust in the opinions of others. For example, they may receive a rejection from a publication with some unsolicited writing advice. The journal may tell them that the characters aren’t fully fleshed out or the meaning is lost, but that doesn’t mean this ‘advice’ is correct. People who are less confident in their work are far more likely to take this and completely change their work because they believe the publication must know what they are talking about. I would like you to consider the possibility that they don’t.

I don’t give writing advice because I do not have the authority to write despite being a writer myself. It is not up to me how you choose to create worlds or choose to weave your words. We all do this in our way.

I recently watched Bohemian Rhapsody, which is a film that focuses on the life of Freddie Mercury and Queen. In a particular scene, the critic's reviews of the infamous operatic song are shown on the screen. These critics are also seen as people who know what they are talking about, but they hated Bohemian Rhapsody. Yet, that song became Queen’s biggest hit!

This business is highly inconsistent, and it continues to ebb and flow. One of the main reasons for this article is that I see so much writing go through unnecessary changes because of one opinion about their story. Organic writing is my favourite type, the sheer unadulterated block of text that reveals the true meaning and intention of the writer. Remember that this is a creative process and not a mathematical equation.

Here are four essential tips that will forge a path towards having autonomy over your writing.

1. Read More Books

Reading more books will not only give you more ideas, but it will inevitably teach you that not everyone is going to like your work. I am of the odd portion where I find value and joy in every book I read, but that may not be the case for you. I would particularly recommend reading philosophical ideas because they offer a valuable perspective on believing in yourself and your ideas.

2. Self-Publish

You will find yourself with stacks and stacks of rejection emails once you submit them. Opening your inbox will become saddening, annoying, and frustrating. This is why I recommend you self-publish your work between raising if that’s what you desire to do.

Self-publishing your work means there is no waiting around for other people to either accept or reject your work. People can see your work instantly, and depending on what social media site you choose, they can retweet, re-blog, like, heart, etc. Self-publishing gives you complete autonomy over the work you poured your heart and soul into, and nobody can take that away from you.

You never know what publishers or literary agents are scouring the internet these days.

They may stumble across your work and take it back to their superiors. Opportunities spring up everywhere, and sometimes you may not see them. I like to think of them as invisible bundles of joy.

3. Accept Misunderstanding

It is most probable that people will come to misunderstand your work at all points of your career. Some people will say that the writer's job is to write, so people understand, but I think they are wrong. When you read a book or a story, you are buying into an adventure. The quest for knowledge is underway, and it is up to the reader to pick the book apart and find the little intricacies laced in the paper. Some would say that’s the most fun part! It’s like a treasure hunt!

4. Learn When To Say No

Your work belongs to you and you alone. Setting boundaries for what you are comfortable with is something I would recommend. Throughout your writing life, people will try to change your piece in the spirit of “making the writing better”. However, these intentions can make your work completely different from what you originally intended.

Remember that you should always feel comfortable with the work that other people will see. If those edits have become unnecessary and unreasonable, say no. You needn’t be rude about your decision, but you can politely explain that you are no longer happy with how the work is turning out. Don’t feel guilty for taking autonomy over your work. There would be no point in continuing with the publication of a piece that has you feeling dissatisfied.

Self-doubt and hailing the opinions of professed ‘experts’ will only harm your writing in the long run. They will lure you into a false sense of security when, in fact, you have tainted something that could have been brilliant. When you click that submit button, don’t think of yourself as an imposter who does not deserve to be there. Instead, believe that you deserve to be published in that publication and elsewhere. There will be days when you need reassurance from others, but you must keep a tight hold on believing that you are a capable writer and a good one. Don’t fall into the trap of looking at old stories you’ve written and think:

“I can’t believe I thought I was good.”

Old stories are merely products of time, not your ability. You were great then, and you will continue to be. Treat your writing as though it will change the world someday because that is when the passion blooms and your work gains a life of its own.

According to this list by Barnes and Noble, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin was ruthlessly rejected by one publisher in 1968, who said that it was lacking in pacing as well as being bogged down. Again, this book continues to be one of the most popular science fiction books of all time, which further proves that you must take the ‘expert’ opinions with a grain of salt.

In summary, having complete autonomy over your writing will benefit your work and aid you in all aspects of life. With a cast-iron belief in yourself and your passions, you will be well equipped to face the doubters and sometimes uninformed opinions of outsiders. Knowing your capabilities will ensure that you continue to do great work and put forth those ideas to the world in whatever way you can. Nothing on this earth will stop you now.

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~ Sylvia Plath


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Courtenay S. Gray

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I like to philosophise and eat cake. I write about just about everything. I also founded @TheEspressoMartini. You’ll often find me reading under the moonlight.


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