Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Ugly Truth

I don't take criticism well. No, I don't get offended, tell the person they're crazy, and storm off in diva-like fashion. Criticism crushes me—as in I'm a crap writer, I should quit now, and I will never be able to make my book what I want it to be. It doesn't matter how nice or mean the critique is, that's how I feel immediately after. It's the perfectionist in me. I hate to fail, and crits make me feel like I failed myself, my characters, and the reader. Dude, that's like TRIPLE FAIL.

But guess what? I get over it. Eventually.

Once the initial shock and despair over reading the critique lifts, I somehow find a way to pick myself up and form a plan to fix things. And once I have a plan, things suddenly don't look so bad. I can do it—I just have to follow my plan.

I stopped writing for a long time, thinking maybe I wasn't cut out for this kind of constant critique and rejection. Then I started writing again, thinking maybe if I took enough pain my skin would get tougher and the crit and rejection wouldn't hurt. But now I know that for me it will always hurt, I'll cry more often than not, and I'll consider quitting more than I like to admit. Then I will brush myself off and keep on keeping on.

Just because I'm a wuss doesn't mean I can't write a book.


  1. Wax on, Wax off! Cheers to friends.

  2. I think all unpubed writers who don't have sales under our belts take criticism the same way. I like the voice of your blog. I have a feeling your work is great.

  3. It's hard to hear how something you have worked so hard on is less than perfect. To a degree, I think you have to take critiques and criticism with a grain of salt. It doesn't matter what you write or how you write it, someone is always, always, always going to find something wrong.

    Obviously, some folks' critiques mean more than others. I think the best you can hope for is to find several writing buddies that you respect and let them devour you MS.

    As writers, I think it's hard for us to see the forrest for the trees. An element of your story can be so off, but you just can't see it. That was the case for a short story of mine that I posted yesterday.

    From what I've seen, Natalie, I think you are on the "write" track. Keep up the hard work!

  4. Sorry to hear you got a rough critique. But its okay to be bummed for a bit, even a long bit. The key is that you get back up. :)

  5. Hey, I'm a wuss too. Let's just eat ice cream and stay up until 1:00 in the morning every time it happens, k? You know it's going to happen again. :)

  6. Guppy, that's the thing—I don't get rough crits. I'm a WUSS. No one said anything particularly mean to me, lol.

    Yeah, Michelle, it's so happening again. Hehe. Next time I'm bringing way better shakes, those kinda sucked.

  7. Criticism sucks really hard. It's awesome when it makes you a better writer, though.

  8. What? You're not perfect?

    I'm crushed!

    (Just remember a good critique will help your writing get even better. People who are outright critical aren't giving you a good critique.)

  9. I'm going to feel left out if I don't get a shake next time!

  10. Hi! I just stumbled across your blog and had to comment...

    My personal opinion is that it is precisely your emotional involvement in your work is what makes you a great writer! On good days you pour all that feeling and emotion into your work...

    Plus you are a mom...lots of emotion running deep in you anyway!

    I'll be back for more! Glad I found you!

  11.'s very brave of you to admit that this bothers you! I never believe people when they say it doesn't. Keep writing!!!!!!!!!!!! It's the writers that face adversity and don't give up who eventually make it.

  12. Shake?
    Where's my Shake!
    I need a Shake!!
    It's been a very rough day at school...

  13. Good for you! Crits hurt like the bejeesus, but they are worth it :)

  14. While I do value good crits, I don't even think it's important to find anything redeeming in them. Whether they're worth it or not, they're part of the game.

    Shaolin monks don't like dragging weights by their testicles, and odds are small that any of them will still benefit from that particularly toughening, but it's just part of what they do.

    There are parts of being a ninja that suck. It's still pretty wicked cool to be a ninja, though.

    Keep it up!

  15. I always have to take deep breaths during critiques. Give myself time...think about it....then it usually starts to make sense to me. I am grateful for those who are willing to go out on a limb and help me see my work more objectively. Those are the best kinds of friends.

  16. I'm right there with you, Natalie. And to add to what T. Anne said, I've heard a number of published authors say they feel exactly the same way.

  17. You totally rock, Natalie. Even when there are crits, your stories are amazing. Keep on keepin' on! You're going to be published before too much longer. I can feel it in my bones.

  18. No whimpering! I mean that if my crit makes you cry, then I've done a major CRIT FAIL!

  19. Lol, I'll suck in my tears, promise. Just throw in a merpire mention every other sentence:) I'll be too distracted by the sprakles to care.

  20. You could always call upon your Orange Belt of Resilience...

  21. Okay, maybe this will help and maybe not, but here goes:

    When I meet with my writing group and I am brave enough to read something (I AM the biggest chicken in the world about sharing new stuff...I used to have a deal that every time I prefaced my piece by saying "I know this is really crappy, but...," I had to buy the group either a drink or a donut, depending on their choice. When you are a poor teacher, those drinks add up!! But I was desperate! I needed to stop sabotaging my own writing.)

    Anyway, I started looking at feedback in a different way, so I wouldn't be so fearful of it, and so that I could afford to eat.
    I realized that I write mainly to amuse/entertain myself. I am the boss of the manuscript. It exists first and foremost because I had some need to write it. Before I share it, I need to feel pretty strongly that *I* like it. (If I don't, I need to fix it so that I do.)
    I also realized that I had a certain amount of control of the critique. What did I want to know from my readers? Hmmmm.....well, of course I want to know that it's good.....I want them to love it.....but that's sometimes hard to know for sure....are they just saying they like it because they like me?...ohhhh, the mind games of a writer!
    So, I developed a little system of what I ask for from my readers. Really, I want to know if they experienced what I wanted them to when I wrote it, and the way that I find out is three-fold. What I want to know is:

    Remember: I want to know what they remember from the story after they finish reading it. What were the strongest parts? (If I've written an amazing scene and nobody even mentions it....well, maybe I need to look at it again.)

    Like: I want to know what they liked about it (this part makes me happiest!)

    Questions: I want to know what questions they have. (This lets me know areas that are maybe more difficult to understand than I thought...helps with character motivation as well, ex: "Why does the main character react run off when she sees.....")

    Because, in the end, I can only write the story I can write, the one that wants to come out of me.

    Sorry this was soooo long. And you are not a wuss....any more than the rest of us are. You just care a lot about your book. And that is a good thing.


  22. Thanks, Shelley. That DOES help. I think what also helps me is knowing the people who crit me really well. When they are new to my stuff, i tend to flip out more.

    If they know me, then I know they're not going to laugh in my face or anything.

  23. Wow, Shelley, those are really good ideas! I'm copying/pasting those 3 things so I remember them for my Beta Phase. I never thought to ask my readers what they remember.

    And I like the reminder that I need to like what I write. I'm only just now learning how to write something I like (usually I'm sick of it when I finish).