I read a variety of blogs, most of which are not about the romance writing biz. I read writing craft blogs, some editor’s blogs, some author blogs. I don’t even subscribe to newsletters and the ones I do subscribe to, I rarely ever read. Not to say I don’t know things, I just listen. I may tweet a lot, but I do listen and I do watch.
One particular day a couple weeks ago, I read a freelance writer’s blog posted, entitled ‘Breaking News: Criticism Destroys Writing’. His post was entirely sarcastic, but…I do think there was one valid thing. BITCH. About it.
This can be applied to anything. We don’t like criticism. We do care what others think and we want people to love us, like us, want to be us, but in our personal lives as well as our professional lives, we know that’s unlikely to happen. You don’t want someone to notice you because your ass is too big. You want them to notice you because you’re soul is beautiful. You want to be noticed for you inside not you outside and rarely is that done with any measure of sincerity. (Yes, I am cynical. I have been on both sides. Ask me which one sucks more…)
As writers, we know there will be criticism. Some of it will be constructive and help you to grow in your writing. Some of it will be downright awful and mean and will make you want to crawl back under the pretty rock you came out from. There won’t always be 100% support and love and happy feelings. I’m not even sure there’s 50% support, love, and happy feelings. It’s probably more like 10% and often comes from places you least expect and not from the places you think it should. We even have critique partners and groups. We expect them to be honest. But we also go to them, seeking their honesty. It’s when it comes from other sources that we freeze and threaten to shatter.
We have to come to grips with the criticism, with the badness and find a way to the other side so we can go back to being productive. The stories don’t write themselves. One way that actually does help is to bitch about it. If someone does hurt your feelings, question your facts, say you have shit for brains and know nothing of which you speak, says your writing is worse than their second grade kid’s writing, sends you a scathing rejection…go ahead. Bitch. Bitch about it all you want. But then…go back to work.
We are human and we do have feelings. Some have networks of people they can turn to that know just how they feel. Others have to suffer through it alone. And it is suffering. Someone has just attacked your work and no matter what anyone says, it is personal. To a point.
Everything we do with regards to our writing…the time it takes, the research, the hours of lost sleep, of solitary confinement, of coffee jitters…is personal. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. Our books are so very personal to us. We put so much into them and when one is shredded all to hell…
And I said, to a point. This is also a business. There’s good and there’s crappy. If it’s all a bed of roses, then how will you learn? How will you grow? If they don’t criticize, tear down once in a while, how can you, as an author grow from ashes. (*wince* purple much Lissa?) We should all grow, too. We should all get rejected, get those bad reviews. We will grow from them. Maybe not right away, but we will. Once we take a step back and look at what was said, deconstruct it, analyze it, we’ll see places to improve. We’ll also be tougher for it.
There will also be some criticism that you can’t grow from, that you can’t do anything about but bitch, because it was so unfair and so painfully wrong. Not all criticism is good and not all of it is worthy of attention or time. Some do it out of jealousy, spite, professional envy, or to drive traffic.
But the good criticism…the rejection that says, this isn’t for us but send us something else, we like your voice. The revisions your editor asks for, the suggestions she makes and questions she asks, this is good. She wants your story to be better, to see you as a writer, grow and learn and write more. The fact that they took the book in the first place out of all the others they didn’t take, be glad of it. Yes, you can bitch about revisions and edits and wait times and contract clauses and bad covers…but once you’ve bitched it out of your system, move on and keep writing. Take the bad with the good. Find someone that’s been on both sides and befriend them.
One day someone will come and ask how you got through it. If you don’t, then you can’t answer them, you can’t be there for them. If you do, make sure you did it in a positive way rather than giving up so that they too can move on.
Bitching is good. Venting is good. We all need to do it about our kids and husband’s and evil day jobs. This is no different. Let it out. Scream, cry, rant over all the bad criticism and even over the good if you need to, then suck it up and move forward.
Here are my two ways to deal with it…
1. Bitch loud and long until it’s all out. If you don’t have anyone to bitch to that really cares, then bitch about it in a blog post you never publish. You can say anything then.
2. 24 hours. My husband gave me this rule and it works. Take 24 hours and walk away. Mope, veg, eat bad food, watch bad television, cry, scream, read, whatever. But it’s 24 hours only. That’s it. After that, go back to work. Don’t let the critics beat you. Don’t let them get the best of you. Do what you’ve gotta do and then get back to it. As writers, we always have stories to tell, so, tell it… Hell, write it out in your next book. Give your heroine a take no prisoners attitude.
In the opening scene of Wonder Boys (and yes I know I’m obsessed with this movie, sue me!), James’ fellow classmates in his advanced writer’s workshop, hate his short story. One guy even says he hated it and it made him want to kill himself. Professor Tripp says to the student, “That’s not what I meant by constructive.” The next person to speak is Hannah, and she says ‘I think we’re missing the point… He respects us enough to forget us and that takes courage.’
Have a great Tuesday. It’s wet, rainy, and sleepy weather here in NC