I hate having my work critiqued. Who doesn’t? The feeling of inadequacy, the annoyance (or perhaps anger) when someone makes a comment about your ‘baby’ that you disagree with, and the stupid feeling when you see obvious errors. It’s a hardly a fun experience, and you can come out the other end wondering why you keep putting yourself through the pain.
Despite that, I’ve always considered it a necessary evil and, no matter how painful, an important learning experience. Not all feedback need be accepted, and there are, of course, always those problems the writer is too close to see, but every technical problem shown to you that you didn’t know before adds something to your writer’s toolkit.
After about five years of having my work torn to shreds, starting with the not so flattering comment of ‘Well, it hangs together – sort of’, I still believe that. I’ve come a long way, and cringe when I look at some work from five years ago. But the process never got any easier.
I would look forward to my crit group meetings, and at the same time I was eager to let someone – anyone – else go first, and would always demur when asked if I wanted to go next. The process of working through written feedback was totally demoralising, and I would procrastinate and find reasons not to start. When I finally opened that document, I was tense the entire time, waiting to be torn down or made an idiot of – even though the feedback was nearly always constructive.
|Or maybe this thick?|
When I went on maternity leave a few weeks before the birth of my daughter, I had plenty of time to write. Owing to the ‘pregnancy from hell’ (the topic of a yet-to-be-written future post), typing was one of only two activities I could manage (the other was watching TV). However, also owing to the ‘pregnancy from hell’, I was far too depressed to contemplate reading the feedback on my novel. So I did nothing.
In short, if I could have found a real way to avoid this part of the writing process, I would have. And all this despite the fact I am not usually a procrastinator, and I spent the first five years of my legal career having every piece of advice and agreement I drafted also torn to shreds.
And then, two weeks ago, I received a final edit on my short story ‘Dragon Bait’. I opened it, scanned the comments and suggested changes, made the ones I agreed with, finalised the document and sent it off to a magazine.
It wasn’t until a day later I realised I hadn’t procrastinated, and I hadn’t tensed up. I just did it. A necessary part of the process, and a job to be completed like any other.
Apparently my skin is now sufficiently dragonhide thick so as not to bruise my ego.
It only took twenty years!
Logically, it has to happen – if you hope to be a serious writer. If you traditionally publish, or seriously self-publish, you will have an editor. If your editor is any good, they will give your darling back to you covered in red scribble. And this may happen multiple times in respect of multiple books. If it doesn’t stop hurting, it could turn into a very stressful career choice!
But it did stop hurting. It happened, and I didn’t even notice. So now I look back at it and marvel, like a caterpillar turned into a butterfly, or a fading rainbow glimpsed at the end of the storm.
And I smile.
|OK, maybe not this thick after all... And I don't support the slaughter of innocent dragons for gloves!|
If you missed it, check out my guest post on POV Rules and when it's OK to break them here.
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