My Greatest Book Regrets

I hate talking about regrets. Regrets are things I like to push to the back of my mind and pretend nothing happened, though of course that’s an inadvisable course of action to take since we have to live up to our mistakes. And so I shall confront my regrets bravely, specifically those that fall within the realm of literature.

1. I never got to finish any story.

Of course, the process of writing is more important and enjoyable than the product, but it was still a great pity to me that none of the hundreds of stories I ever wrote had an end. I used to love taking a book and looking at the chapters, and using the chapter names to write a new story. Like, re-interpreting the chapter names to make a new plot. It’d have been a fun project if I hadn’t stopped at the first chapter and found no motivation or inspiration to go on.

The funny thing about me and writing is that I get all these ideas but don’t have the stamina to flesh them out in writing. I guess my story ideas follow my mood. When I’m in a certain mood I get the creative juices flowing, but once my mood changes, such as after a few hours of rest, I lose the buzz that I had before. So I never did manage to finish my stories.

This is one of those regrets that I can’t help, I think. You’re bound to need to stop writing sometime, and then you can’t help it if your muse goes after that.

2. I did not seek writing critique.

The only critique I ever had for my writing, outside of a school setting, was probably the time when I had my roleplay posts looked through on S*T. I once tried to set up a forum for people to teach each other about how to write better, which was fun even though it never really got active, and also joined a forum (or a few) where people critique each other on writing. But the forums I joined were small ones. I simply didn’t dare to join big forums and have people lambast my writing.

I hold mixed feelings about critique. On one hand, I believe that people should strive to improve the quality of their writing. If you write for years without critique, there’s a high possibility you’ll remain stagnant in that state, and all the writing experience in the world isn’t going to help you if you live under a rock. On the other hand, sometimes criticism can demoralise people who’re just writing for leisure, and deter them from writing with better writers out of a feeling of inferiority, which means they may feel that they’ll never become as good. I think that the determination to improve must come from within. Other people telling you to pull up your socks isn’t going to work if you feel that improvement is a chore. And so rather than forcing critique on them, we should let them actively seek critique on their own, and provide them with help when they ask for it.

And so I regret that I didn’t seek more writing critique, for fear of criticism and inferiority. The fear of criticism is something I must work on indeed.

3. I didn’t read widely enough.

When I was a child, I totally abhorred non-fiction. I wouldn’t touch a non-fiction book except for the Detective’s Handbook and the Spy’s Guidebook — which by the way are good reads for kids. I didn’t even read Horrible Science because it was non-fiction. But I think that if I had given non-fiction a try, I might have found that some of them aren’t so bad after all, and it’d also add to my general knowledge, which is quite lacking now.

On a related note, I also regret that I’m reading less now, whether fiction or non-fiction. It’s very inevitable, I suppose,  when you grow up and get busier with technology and school and work, but I miss the days when I had the whole day to read a single novel, and then another day to read the next one. I don’t have so much patience nowadays.

Well, I guess that’s really it when it comes to literary regrets. I think I still turned out well literary-wise. I picked up classics and modern classics, popular books and indie books, and I’ve garnered a bit of writing experience, however minute. So I think my literary life has been good, all in all.

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