Friday, September 17, 2010


by Anne Mohr

When you look in the mirror, who or what do you see? Personally, who and what I see varies depending mostly on my mood. In the August issue of RWR, Ann Warner’s article, The Last Word, includes a quote from the book, THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, by agent, Betsy Lerner which was of particular interest. On the topic of writers judging their own writing, Lerner writes, “…is like looking in a mirror. What is perceived likely has more to do with how we feel about ourselves than with how we look.”

If I can look in the mirror one day and think, not bad, while other days, all I see is every fault, and wrinkles that I know were there the day before suddenly are as deep and as numerous as the cracks in a dry riverbed, I have to ask myself, what’s going on? Once I’ve confirmed that it has nothing to do with the mirror, my eyesight, or the failure or success of my moisturizing cream, I have to face the reality that it’s about where my head’s at.

Who do you think a young Ali saw when he looked in the mirror? He saw a winner. And, I can tell you even years later, Parkinson’s be damned, he was still that same person. I know this, because I had the good fortune to meet him briefly. His walk and talk may have been less butterfly and bee-like, but his attitude was still confident. Many considered Ali to be cocky. While he did have great flare, there are few if any who’d argue that his confidence wasn’t justified.

When considering our own work, if we are overly confident or debilitated by pessimism, how can we hope to judge our work fairly? On the journey to publication, one obstruction that we can and must obliterate is self destruction. Another gem from the August RWR is a quote by Sylvia Plath. “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Conversely, an equally powerful enemy is baseless confidence.

For many, writing is something that we do because we are compelled to do it. It is a passion that must be fed and can’t be stopped. A middle ground should be established that encompasses warranted confidence that will offset doubt in ones ability. If we can do this, we’ll be able to push through and get to the place that allows us to keep writing and submitting work.

Finally, this is a subjective realm that can be influenced by so many factors. Once the first draft is complete and it is time to put on our editor’s hats, we must employ a clinical scrutiny in order to be able to judge the work fairly. The removal of ego and emotion (self-doubt) will enable us to ready the work for others’ evaluations.♥

Anne Mohr has been a member of RWANYC since 1993. She lives in Southern California, and is a real estate agent in both California and New Jersey. She writes as Jacqueline Stewart, Helen St. James and Max St. James, and is published in short fiction (magazines.) At the forefront of several writing projects, she is currently writing a screenplay.


  1. Very sensitive and insightful, Anne.

    Your quote from Sylvia Plath reminds me of something else I once read about her writing self-evaluation. I think it was her ex-husband, the poet Ted Hughes, who wrote that Plath used to evaluate whether a poem she had written was a "table," a "chair," or merely a "stool"--depending upon how substantial and well-finished she considered her final product to be. Interestingly, even a "stool" had its function, according to her assessment, although that function wasn't nearly as grand as that of a "table"; her publishing expectations of a "stool" would not be as competitive as those of a "table," but she would still look for venues to publish those "stools" too.

    I find that I often evaluate my writing in a somewhat similar way--although the labels of "table," "chair," and "stool" don't work for me!


  2. Well said! Too much self-confidence is just as much of a hindrance as too much self-doubt! We all fall somewhere on the spectrum, don't we? This is why a second pair of eyes is so crucial is evaluating our work. Though I have to say, after wording pretty steadily on my manuscript, why anyone would do this for any other reason other than a sick compulsion is beyond me. There are many easier and more enjoyable ways to try and make a buck I am sure!

    Mary Lamb

  3. Thanks for reading and for the comments. Margaret, I was fortunate that Plath was required reading when I was in high school. And, Mary I agree. I've yet to make real money from my writing, but when I write, my soul sings.