I was reading Reese Rants & Raves' describing her struggles with writing and her acceptance of critiques and I thought to myself - screw that. My tried and true method for dealing with criticism, even the constructive kind?
I don't take criticism well, because I take it so personally. Whether it's a comment about my cooking or my housekeeping or my blogging, it cuts to very core of me and painfully exposes all my insecurities. Having this blog has brought up a serious problem: If I am willing to put pen to paper, if I wish to promote my writing, if I want to grow my audience, if I want to get better, then I have to be willing to accept the criticisms that come along with it.
I can not expect to rip out perfection every time I sit down to the keyboard. And there's always the chance that, even if I do write something that I love, not everyone else is going to love it.
I had a huge spike in traffic one day recently, and followed it back to a message board where one of my posts was being discussed. The original post hugely inflated my ego "Love this blog!", it went on and on. But the follow up posts were a different story.
"She tries too hard to be funny."
"I used to read her, but don't anymore."
"I don't like the foul language. It's too forced."
I may have yelled a hearty "fuck you!" to the screen when I read that last one.
The criticisms were, embarrassingly, crushing. They put me in a foul mood for days. I tried to talk myself out of it. So what? Plenty of people like me. Do I really care what a bunch of strangers think about me?
In a word - yes. I write because I want to write, because I have stories I want to tell. But ideally, there will be people who want to read those stories. In the short time I've been writing this blog, I've come to realize that this medium is one that lends itself so much to interaction with the readers. Comments are instantaneous, feedback is immediate. The more I write, the more secure I become in finding my voice, and establishing just who I want to be as a writer. I hope people enjoy reading what I write, but if they don't I have to be willing to accept that.
I also have to be willing to improve as a writer. This means taking that helpful, constructive criticism that's offered by people with the experience I lack. I can't fight an editor over a semicolon. Other writers, editors, proofreaders, their goal is to make me sound better. What kind of dummy would turn down that help?
A few weeks ago, I went to hear David Sedaris. As he read, he would occasionally make a little note on the paper, sometimes in response to the audience's reaction. During the Q&A following the reading, he was asked about those notes.
"I'm always changing things." he said.
There is a lesson for me in that answer. Here is a well established, successful, brilliant writer owning up to the fact that he is constantly improving his own work. And if he's willing to be open to criticism, and self-criticism, who am I to be above it?
This popped up in my Facebook feed this morning, posted by a a writer friend. For all of us out there suffering with self doubt, and trying to find our voice, I thought it was very appropriate.
2 weeks ago