Monday, August 8, 2016

A Writer's Worth

Writing a great book is hard. Every word you write has to be evaluated. Balanced. Checked. Re-checked. And, then, after all that, every word is rewritten. It can be a painful process.

Yet, the hardest part of writing for me isn’t the writing/editing/rewriting process. It’s the chunk of time between, “Dear Reader, here is my story” and the subsequent digestion of the reader’s feedback. Waiting to hear back from a beta reader or contest judge feels like jumping out of a plane with a 50/50 chance that the parachute on your back is actually an umbrella.

When I first joined a critique group, I thought those sessions were some of the most painful, awful hours I had ever endured. Even when I tried to prepare myself for rough feedback on a difficult set of pages, it still hurt. Even the weeks of positive feedback left me feeling like there was something about me that simply wasn’t enough. If my words weren’t perfect after a year* of working so hard, maybe it wasn’t worth it. Maybe I just needed to quit.

I think I was at a writer’s conference—RMFW’s Colorado Gold—when I heard someone say that the only way to survive critique was to make sure there was a wall between your worth as a writer and the comments/feedback from readers (especially total strangers).

As I wait to receive a Yes or a No from the mentors I submitted to for Pitch Wars, I keep reminding myself of this fact. My worth is not directly proportional to how much people like my stories. If they don’t adore my novel, I’m not less of a writer or less of a creative person. Don’t get me wrong—it’s fantastic to hear a beta reader say they loved this-or-that setting and so-and-so in that one part. It’s important to remember that the way stories are told is so subjective. If there was a concept that defined “subjective”, it would be “whether or not a person loves your book”.

If you’re participating in Pitch Wars like I am, or if you’re sending your manuscript to betas for notes, remember that no matter what anyone says or thinks, you wrote a frickin’ book. A whole book! That’s awesome! Don’t let fear, doubt, or insecurity get in your way. Your worth is not defined by someone else’s opinion of your writing.

How have you learned to keep your chin up when you're being critiqued?

Michelle is currently writing a short story about a French drug runner working for the sidhe. The catch? The drugs are fancy cheeses that make the fae go ballistic. One could say it's a seriously cheesy story. 

You can find Michelle here on Mondays or on Twitter nearly every day, @redactionaire (except for when she’s avoiding it because #PitchWars and #PWTeaser make her nervous).

*Oh, Lord. A WHOLE YEAR. I really did think that one year of critique group was enough to make me perfect. Bless my heart. Luckily, I know better now!

1 comment:

  1. There was an episode of the old TV series “Northern Exposure”, where a character named Ed has to go on a vision quest to defeat his personal demon. He wanted a career in making films, turns out his demon was external validation. Once he realized he didn’t need external validation he was free to be true to his creativity. For some reason the general gist of this episode has stayed with me.

    When I was in college, I took a few creative writing classes to fill out my schedule. The last of the courses involved peer critiques. When it was my turn to be critiqued, there was a general agreement that they loved my stories and connected to the characters. Then came the “but”. The “but” was followed by tearing apart my story structure, grammar and various technical aspects of my writing. I lacked the maturity and writing experience to appreciate that their critiques were accurate and informative. As a result, I fell away from writing and focused on my science degree. Now I’ve gained a bit more wisdom and a thicker skin I could handle and appreciate the input, but lack the peer review. I love living the rural life, but it is difficult to find a critique group.