An affectation is defined as “behavior, speech, or writing that is artificial and designed to impress.” And we’ve all been guilty of it. Luckily, for most of us, we only did this in the beginning, before we found our voice.
I remember a time, in my first year of writing, when I would scour the thesaurus, looking for the word that made me look like I knew what I was talking about. I once used “stentorious” in a story because I thought it sounded impressive. It didn’t. Eventually I replaced it with “loud”, which means the same thing and doesn’t require a dictionary to be in the reader’s back pocket. Also, it made me look like less of douche.
Avoid affectations in your art at all cost. So what if you don’t think your work measures up to the masters in your field yet. Neither did they when they started, but they got there, through hard work, commitment to the art, and discipline. I see this in a lot of cooking shows, especially ones with Gordon Ramsey’s name on them. These young chefs trying to impress the master with fancy plating or weird ingredient combinations but missing the most IMPORTANT ingredient: them.
Affectations are nothing more than you trying to be someone you’re not. And everyone else can tell when you’re doing it, whether it’s writing the most “extreme” horror you can imagine (which is usually not very imaginative, to be honest), or putting on a cheap smile in the face of impossible conditions and hoping a good attitude will see you through.
I see this particular one a LOT in my daily life. You should see the number of people at work who smile and say “it’s not so bad” when we end up working that “emergency 12 hour shift” or the guy who says he’s going to bid out because he doesn’t like the conditions when two weeks ago he was angling for that team lead job he didn’t get.
Rejection sucks, we can all admit it. But the thing to do with rejection isn’t to pretend it doesn’t bother you, that you’re perfectly content when your book didn’t sell in the numbers you’d hoped it would or connect with an audience as quickly. Instead we have to, not necessarily embrace rejection, but definitely admit it. I’ve got over twice as many rejection slips for my fiction as I do acceptance letters. And they all sucked. But I didn’t pretend it was all okay. Instead I took that, accepted it and admitted that it hurt, and I used that to help me try to write a better story next time, while resubmitting the rejected one, sure that somewhere out there was an editor who would appreciate it.
Believe me, it’s ok to care, and it’s ok to be yourself. Because in years to come when people know your name and audiences are waiting for that next release, YOU are the person they’re coming back for, and in the long run YOU are the only thing that is sustainable in your art. I used to try to copy Bradbury or Barker in my prose, but that becomes exhausting because it’s not ME. Eventually I had to learn to put away those affectations and just write as myself; it was the only way I could keep writing day after day. When you strip away those affectations and be the best YOU that you can be, that’s when you’ve found your voice, and THAT is when your art really starts to shine and people start to notice.