Ninja Captain Alex, a mighty fine read on the internet if I ever saw one, and this month’s co-hosts are are Annalisa Crawford, Julie Luek, and Elsie. If you’re new to the IWSG, go over to Alex’s blog and hop on the Linky and read up.
This week I’m talking about something that has always worried me, but more now than ever. You see, when I was a kid, people would praise all sorts of things that I did. I sang; I danced; I was in plays, and every time people would tell me how great I was at these things. But then I went out into the real world—the world not wrapped in a small town where I was related by blood to a third of the town (no seriously, I had six cousins in my English class)—things were different. The band director scowled at me when I auditioned for the band. He took me, but only because there weren’t enough trombones. Sing for the band? Ha! He had others “much better suited.” It turned out to be his girlfriend. I auditioned for plays, and never got call backs. I had been a star, but the more I was out in the real world, I realized that I had never been all that special. There was a whole sea of special, and I was lucky to have sight of the shore. Worse, I realized how untalented, untrained, and unprepared I was for the real world.
And now I wonder if the same is true about writing.
I mean, sure, I read a lot, but how do I compare myself to others? I’ve written a lot at this point (I’ve got you in my sites 1 million words!), but comparing my skill set is something that I still find myself totally unable to do. And yet, I’m starting to feel like I’ve got a feel for how I write, and what makes it good.
And that scares me.
The last time I thought I was good at stuff, it turned out I was untalented and unaware. I know most writers start in that place, but I zoomed through it pretty quickly. I’d already experienced the heartbreak that comes from expecting to be a big shot and discovering I was the bug not the windshield. So when I realized that I might be poorly equipped to judge my own work, I went at it with a hatchet (but I kept writing new stuff). I listened to every scrap of advice and feedback, and I slavishly followed whenever possible. I tore apart my work, and I put it back together.
And then something happened.
I got feedback that I didn’t agree with.
More frightening, it was from an industry professional. And I didn’t agree with it on a visceral level. Like if I’d gotten that advice while reading a book, I’d have chucked the book across the room. It was a classic case of “didn’t get it.”
But then a thought crept in: What if she’s right, and I’m wrong? What if I’m still untalented and unaware (again!)?
Then my negative voice saw the chink in my armor and went crazy. What if every nice thing anyone has ever said was just the nice part of the criticism sandwich? What if I really do suck and everyone is just being nice about it?
It was pretty easy to quell all the ridiculous bits from the little voice, but I’m still left wondering if I’ve just gotten too big for my britches. What’s worse, I’ve already tried opening the story the way the publishing professional suggested. EVERYONE hated it. EVERYONE. Even my mom said she didn’t like it.
But was that a failing of mine?
So yeah, I am now standing on the shaky ground of I believe in my story the way it is, but someone said they didn’t think it was very strong. Now what?
If you’ve been here, boy do I know how you felt. But I realized something: there are all kinds of people in the world. All kinds. There are people who don’t care if you can’t use a hyphen or always get peak, peek, pique confused. There are people who have strong feelings about how you spell grey (or is it gray?). And in publishing, it only takes one yes.
Whether I’m right or I’m wrong, there’s only one thing left to do: write the next novel.