on analyzing one’s literary output

Writers have this “thing” where (for some of us) we like to go back and re-read our own work and feel pleased with our literary output. We might have to set it down for a while before we do this, but eventually we look at it and note a clever turn of phrase, or can see how we’ve grown as writers, or think about how well we achieved that which we set out to achieve. I’ll be clear here: I do this. I love looking at what I’ve written.

I figured this was a good thing. Done with brutal honesty, it promotes writerly growth.

Kiddo#3 today asked for my help while I was working on a piece. No biggie. Although he’s been trained for a while, he’s only felt comfortable pooping in the toilet for the last month or two. We’re still reinforcing for him how nice it is that he can take care of his own body, but he needs help cleaning up.

And as I took care of the necessary details, he told me with great excitement what he had done. He talked about the quantity of his output, the quality, the type, the color, and the process of producing it. He was quite pleased with what he’d made, and I assured him I too was pleased.

You can see where this is going, right? Because I saw it right there, as I helped my three year old with his output, that maybe I’m doing the same thing with my own output. That maybe, sometimes, these things that I’ve made really are just something that comes out of me and aren’t really something of which to be proud, or to look at over and over again, and to talk about in great detail to others.

It’s ten minutes later right now, and Kiddo#3 has gone on to bigger and better things (he’s ramming a plastic Space Shuttle into a wooden box car from his train set). Having produced his output, he’s mentally let it go.

Somewhere in here, there’s a lesson for me as a writer, but I’m not sure I like it so much.


  1. marcys

    Great parallel! Don’t belittle your writing, though, as just another poop–remember, your kid WAS proud and excited by his creation. That’s appropriate for his age. And being proud and excited by your writing is appropriate for YOUR age. By the way, I do the same thing–with my writing, I mean, not my poop!

  2. DeEee

    I hate to say it, but I look at my writing AND my poop. Being a person who has written since she can remember, I like to see what my memories are made of and to see how I have grown and how I have stagnated. Being a woman, a vegetarian, and a lover of coffee and dairy products, I’m happy when I have a BM.

    In the past, I’ve likened writing to needing to go the bathroom. Sometimes, you just got it get it out. But what we produce as writers –even in the past — is not equivalent to excrement. Instead, it’s something that had to get out because we wanted it to be said (i.e., written). It has to come out so that we may share it with our selves sometime later or with others.

  3. Jenni

    Well, that certainly explains why I haven’t been as excited about my lastest nanowrimo novel.
    But there’s another lesson here – he shared his excitement and you had a brief moment of joy at his output. That’s why we write – to share our joy over what we’ve accomplished (and feel a little lighter in the process?)

  4. philangelus

    It’s still a decent comparison, though, unfortunately.

    It occurs to me that if I have to clean up after him, then does that make me his editor?

  5. Diinzumo

    I do exactly the same thing with both writing and art. It’s harder with the art because it’s a lot easier to go back and edit a written piece.

    I wish I could “let go” in that area. I’m trying, but it’s tough.

  6. marcys

    Re #4: “…does that make me his editor?” In between chuckles, it occurred to me that you’ve got an idea percolating here for some kind of humor book–either on writing or on poop!