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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

New Book Update: Loving Eyes Are Not Blind

Last September, I promised myself I would return to my Essential Path novel in January. My plan was to follow the advice I gave a client: read the entire novel without judgment, without making notes, noticing only what I love about the novel. I wouldn’t start thinking about what was working and what needed tweaking until the second read-through.

Even so, I started reading on January 3 with trepidation. There were two versions of Chapter 1 and it was difficult to read both without comparing them. Three days later, I felt compelled to made a note in my journal about how Chapter 1 should end and Chapter 2 begin, even though I’d read six chapters by then.

Two days later, I wrote a post, Time to Be Brave Again, where I acknowledged the resistance I felt and how I used TV to distract myself. That was also when I started making brief notes about what I loved in my manuscript: “Love the exchanges between Peregrine and Jaxson,” and “Love the emotional intensity when Peregrine says goodbye to Katy.” I found my rhythm for reading with loving eyes.

I learned how to keep reading for what I love without pausing to criticize the writing or berate myself, without making notes in the margin or even in my head about what to fix.

A primary principle of Appreciative Inquiry is that we get what we look for. When we start making margin notes about what needs fixing, we start seeing more and more that needs fixing. We slide prematurely into editing mode, which serves a purpose, but only when we use it intentionally and at the right time.

Reading with loving eyes didn’t blind me. I still saw what I was doing as a writer. In fact, I saw more clearly than I had before.

Just before I put Essential Path on the shelf, a generous agent tried to show me how I over-explained. He gave me examples of what I could delete. He assured me I could trust the reader more and, in the process, cut up to a third of the book’s word count. I thanked him, but I couldn’t see it. I defended my writing in my head: “But that sentence shows this about Peregrine and that sentence establishes the planet the story takes place on.”

my journal (2)Now, after reading with loving eyes for a week and a half, I simultaneously see what there is to love and how I over-explain. I notice sentences that clarify or amplify what doesn’t need clarifying or amplifying. I don’t judge myself or the writing. I just keep reading.

When I stopped reading a few nights ago, I realized “Oh, that’s what that agent meant. I see how I can change that.”

I trust myself to attend to those changes when I get to the editing stage. I don’t need to dwell on them now. My novel is imperfect; it will be a little less imperfect when I finish revising and editing, but still imperfect. And I love it enough to share it with the world.

Maybe I’m flawed, but I just can’t criticize and love at the same time. Can you?

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6 Comments on “New Book Update: Loving Eyes Are Not Blind”

  1. Mark Jenkins January 22, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    It sounds like a great exercise, especially if it’s something you’ve been working on for awhile. I know from past experience with my own writing and from being in workshops, there can be such a thing as blindly loving your writing too much, but thinking about why you love something more than other parts is a useful exercise.


    • rosannebane January 23, 2014 at 8:51 am #

      Thanks Mark! The funny thing is that the longest time I loved what I wrote blindly, but I think it was because I didn’t really love it and I was afraid of my own judgements. The significant change is that this time, I know that reading with loving eyes is Step 1 and that fully loving the novel will make the next steps more effective. I’ll be prepared to refrain from judging (listening to the Saboteur) in the next steps; I’ll be able to use discernment instead.


  2. Joel D Canfield January 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    I’m getting closer to reading the first quarter of my WIP to remind myself what it’s supposed to be, and that it’s probably better than I realize.


    • rosannebane January 23, 2014 at 8:52 am #

      How on in Joel, the water is fine!
      What a relief it is to read my writing without judging it. And to know that discernment, not judgment, will be Step 3.



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    […] I wasn’t trying looking for the “one right answer” to make the manuscript “correct.” The loving eyes my beta readers gave my novel helped me stay out of defensiveness and […]


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