Feedback can be a killer. Before it, you think you’re the best writer in the world. Or, if not that confident, at least you know you’re manuscript/story is pure perfection. That’s the thing about art. With competitive talents, like sports, or technical, like computer science or math, you know when you’re good, and it’s pretty clear when you suck. If you can’t make a basket worth shit, there isn’t enough denial in the world to make you think you would fit in to the NBA. Even some arts have clear indications on your abilities. Draw a face. Does it look like a human or a space creature? Nuff said. With writing, skill is so subjective that it can be tough (read: near impossible) to assess for yourself whether you’re good or not. You could be writing exactly like your favorite author…but maybe your favorite author sucks, too.
A writer’s path is a tough one to walk, and frankly sometimes it feels like it would have been a blessing to have a passion/talent in something else. Maybe dolphin training. Yea, can’t ever have too many of those. But back to writing. The feedback can get so harsh that you can’t help but to begin to doubt yourself. Is writing what I was meant to do? Will I ever get anywhere with it? How much do dolphin training lessons REALLY cost?
I’m dealing with that now. Not on a serious, life-changing level, but my bubble has certainly been burst. And I was comfortable in that bubble. It was a bubble where the things I wrote felt brilliant, and my friends would praise the same. I liked my bubble, but no writer can get anywhere from inside one, except to the pinnacle of their own ego. It’s like being born, and those first few years in the world are confusing and different. But you learn to walk, talk, and eventually feel just at home.
Easier said than done. ‘I didn’t connect with your characters.’ But I spent months building up Betty Sue! How can you NOT feel her struggle?! You just don’t have a heart! ‘The beginning is boring.’ Well, excuuuuuse me for not starting with a nuclear explosion! It’s not boring, it’s dramatic build-up! ‘It’s too wordy!’ Poppycock! If by wordy you mean ‘beautiful’ then I am inclined to agree. ‘The ploy needs work.’ Hmm…well, yeah…the plot does suck a tad, but look at all the wonderful prose around that plot!
It’s natural to resist the push to pop that bubble. But once it’s done, we’re left feeling hopeless and, truthfully, afraid. How can my writing get up to par? How can I possibly make all these changes to 300 pages? And the hardest part is realizing that your goal of months may have to change to that of years.
The second is also obvious. Actually, all of these are obvious, so just bear with me: don’t take the advice. You came in to this knowing that rejection is the name of the game. You expected to hear you suck. So why change a thing now that you’ve heard it? Someone out there will connect with your characters. Someone will appreciate your flowery prose. And someone will think your plot is genius. And if you’re wrong you only lose, what? A lifetime? Pssh.
Option 3? Evolve. Adapt. Most likely your bubble has been burst by someone who is knowledgeable in the craft. Otherwise, why stress over something someone says who thinks Twilight is this generation’s Great Gatsby? Instead of turning your nose and running to get a fourth, fifth, or hundreth attention, pick this bubble-popper’s brain. Run other works by them. Distinguish a pattern of what doesn’t work (and what works well) and either revise, revise, revise, or write something new with this stuff in mind.
Honestly, getting your bubble burst is a good thing. Because now you can actually start your journey to becoming a successful writer. We all hear about writer’s going through rejection, rejection, rejection, but it’s not until we experience it ourselves that we realize it’s not JUST that it takes a while to find someone to resonate with your work as is, but that in the beginning you simply aren’t good. Or, not good enough. The happy part is, you can be.
Will you be?
PS: I promise my next post will be happier :).