A few weeks ago, I had a wonderful conversation with my eldest son.
During the course of our discussion, he made two comments in relation to life and career:
If you are unwilling to experience discomfort, you will not experience success.
It’s okay if I keep failing as a result of trying to grow.
Since our chat, I’ve thought a lot about that conversation and the wisdom of those two statements. I think they apply to life in general, but I’ve specifically thought about them in regard to my writing career.
Sometimes, I must really push myself outside of my area of comfort in order to find get to the place I really want to be. With trepidation I pressed myself to:
write my first book
attend writer’s conferences
start a blog
write a second book
have my work critiqued (several times)
re-write both books numerous times
learn, practice, learn more, practice again
seed out the advice of established authors
attend a mentoring class
read a lot (okay, so that part is fun)
For some people, those things may be easy. For others, the same activities may feel impossible. Looking back on the journey, I see that I am becoming more successful as I am willing to be uncomfortable. Because we’re only uncomfortable for a little while, until we try, learn and become comfortable again with our new knowledge or abilities.
And even though I’ve failed a lot doing the above things, I’ve been growing. So the failure is part of the process and actually something to be embraced, not avoided.
I want to see my life in the same light.
Pushing outside my comfort zone, trying, failing, learning, failing, and growing.
The three critiques for the second novel I entered in the ACFW First Impressions contest arrived in my inbox. As my wonderful husband predicted, they were far more positive than my first novel’s scores. I didn’t expect that—I mean, I’m the same writer, right? How could two entries be judged so differently? Subject matter, I believe. But regardless of the reason, I felt much more encouraged that I may have the makings of a true author yet.
The encouragement of others makes a world of difference!
Those of you who commented and wrote encouraging emails in response to my post last week really turned my heart around. Thank you for your vote even if you weren’t a contest judge! Another positive was the advice from the sender of the email containing my critiques. Her gracious and wise comments offered a perspective that was very liberating. I also read some great blog posts regarding how writers can respond to reviews and critiques. Here’s the compiled (some repeated by many) advice I found most encouraging:
Put away the critiques after reading them once and read them later with a freshly open mind.
Writing is subjective and you have no idea what the judge has been through personally before commenting on your writing. Remember this is their opinion. Take it with much salt. (Charles Dickens, one of my fave authors, would never stand a chance in today’s market!)
Throw out anything you don’t agree with. (Really?? Wow! Cool. Still want to keep an open mind though.)
Pay attention to any area commented on by more than one judge.
Any criticism is meant to help you launch into better writing.
After Christmas I took out all six critiques again.
I laid them side by side from the lowest score to the highest. From the first point to the last on each I looked for the highest scored areas and the lowest. Then I looked for any common areas that I seemed to do well in as well as any I need to improve. This time reading through them, I attempted to be more objective and analytical in order to find ways to grow in my writing.
Plot and structure appear to be my weak spot.
That’s probably why I feel like I’m in the deep end treading water now that I’ve hit almost the middle of my first novel! So I ordered a couple of recommended books by James Scott Bell to help me swim. (Or write, as it were.)
In the end, I’m so glad I entered the contest. I’m grateful to the judges for their input and advice, and for all the encouragement from readers and other writers! I hope to emerge a better writer as a result of this. Someday, maybe I’ll even become a professional!
What has been encouraging to you as you write? What are your weak areas? What advice or encouragement do you have for other writers?
Not that I expected to win. Truly! I entered more for the experience and the input from the judges. My desire to become a better writer motivated me to take the plunge and humbly accept any criticism offered. I am thankful for the three judges who read and critiqued my work, offering their opinion and writing expertise.
Here’s the dilemma.
I read the first evaluation of my work and while it wasn’t off the charts promoting me as a wonderful writer, it offered some hope that all the writing, classes, critiquing, etc. had been worth it; I actually was learning something and it showed in my above average skills. Yay! The second set of comments stunned me. This particular judge scored me as a below average writer with major problems. The evaluator recommended I get help for the many elements needing work. OUCH! I gulped and read the final critique. The comments fell mostly in various places between the first two.
Writing is so subjective.
The reality of this doesn’t make it any easier to welcome criticism, but I want to grow and learn from my mistakes so I took to heart every score and comment. However, I looked for common areas needing work, and couldn’t find any. Not one of the three judges scored the same in any area! As a matter of fact, in a few areas, I received both my lowest and highest scores! I’m not sure how to interpret that. Which judge’s opinion do I go by?
Discouragement set in.
I confess that all week, since reading those reports, I’ve had the worst time sitting down to write. (In all honesty, the craziness of Christmas isn’t helping that either!) The old lies keep pounding at my door.
“You are no good as a writer and you’ll never be. No matter how hard you try. You can’t write well. Period. Give it up.”
Perhaps you’ve heard the same voices?
I finally forced myself to write for an hour. Just one. It was torture. I struggled to put a few words down and berated myself out of every one of them. But about halfway through my timer’s ticking, the words began to flow again. When the chimes sounded, ending my time, disappointment flooded me. It had been fun. I wanted more.
I guess a writer is a writer no matter how well or how poorly she writes. The discouragement still feels a bit heavy on my shoulders, but I love to write. I can’t help it. So, here’s a blog post. Thanks for reading.
What makes you discouraged about writing? How do you handle criticism or rejection?