A Writer’s Pain

To be honest, sometimes being a writer is extremely painful. 

I’m a fairly sensitive person. And if you know me well or have watched a sappy, romantic movie with me, you’re probably nodding your head in agreement and saying “that’s for sure!” as you read this.

It really is a miracle that I’ve lasted this long in an industry that’s centered around criticism. Constructive criticism, destructive criticism—and everything in between.

I’ve dealt with bad reviews, brutally honest friends/editors, and an especially harsh inner critic. 

There have been so many times when I’ve broken down in tears, slammed my laptop shut, and questioned why I ever started writing in the first place because of how overwhelmed and discouraged I had become.

Writing What You Want

When I write for myself, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. The only standards I have to live up to are my own (which is already pretty difficult).

But since writing is my full-time career and not a hobby, I’m dependent on the opinions of other people—at least in some capacity.

For example, if I were to pay an experienced editor to edit my book only to discard all their editorial notes and do my own thing, chances are that my writing won’t improve very much.

Writing whatever I want—however I want—will only get me so far.

If I want to continue to learn and grow as an author, then I have to be willing to take advice and criticism from other people—even if it hurts.

Criticism vs Feedback 

Before I continue, I feel like I should explain my own definitions of criticism and feedback since I’ve found that I see them as two distinct things.

In my mind, criticism is something like, “I noticed this thing about your writing and this is how it made me feel.” And it can be bad, “I didn’t like it.” Or good, “I did like it.”

While feedback in my opinion is more like, “I noticed this thing about your writing, and this is how you can fix it/make it even better.”

Subjective Criticism

Another thing I’ve had to learn over the past few years is that, at the end of the day, criticism and feedback are both rather subjective.

That’s why it’s so important that I take everything—both positive and negative comments—with a grain of salt.

It takes a lot of time for me to conceptualize, write, and revise a book. And even after all that work, an editor can still find a ton of problems with my writing. 

Even once the book is published, plenty of people will find something they deem as “wrong” with my book.

Maybe it’s the genre, or that they can’t relate to any of the characters. Maybe the plot is too fast-paced, or too slow. Or maybe they just don’t like my writing style.

The facts are, no matter how well I write, or how “good” my stories are, there will always be people who won’t like them—and that’s okay.

There’s definitely a middle ground between writing for yourself, and writing to please everyone, and that’s where I want to stay.

Mean People Have Good Advice Too

I find it super difficult to take advice from people who I don’t know or who I think of as “mean”.

What a shock, right?

But seriously, if someone is purposely trying to make their feedback or criticism as harsh as possible, a part of me feels like they don’t deserve to be right—even if they are.

I also have to remind myself that admitting that a person was right about a character in one of my books “falling flat”, doesn’t mean I have to agree if they also said that I “suck as a writer” or that “fantasy books are the worst”.

It’s not “all or nothing” when it comes to taking criticism. Nuance is important.

And just to be clear: Be very careful who you take advice from. Don’t change the entire plot of your seven-book-long series just because your second cousin—twice removed—told you to.

Encouragement is Key

Still, sifting through personal biases and ideas to find objective facts isn’t always easy, especially if the truth is covered in a thick layer of harsh criticism.

That’s why I really appreciate all the people in my life who tell me the truth and give constructive criticism without tacking on unnecessary negatives.

And because my profession is filled with so much discouragement, I absolutely love it when I get nice reviews on my stories, or when people randomly reach out to encourage me. 

But at the end of the day, I can’t only rely on other people to make me feel better. I need to keep finding my own sources of encouragement to draw from.

Because as much as I hate to admit it I still get hurt by feedback and criticism sometimes—even when I know that the person giving it just wants me to succeed.

Rejecting Rejection

Rejection has always felt like another form of criticism to me, and it’s something that writers face a lot. 

We might get rejections from agents, publishers, readers, or book reviewers for reasons we may or may not know or understand. 

When I get rejected, it feels like someone is telling me “you aren’t talented enough” or “nice try.”

It’s frustrating, and can make me doubt my abilities even though I know that the rejection isn’t personal.

However, I noticed that adding just one word to both of these phrases helps me look at things differently.

For example, what if I change “you aren’t talented enough” to “you aren’t talented enough yet.

And “nice try” to “nice, try again.”

The only way for me—or anyone else—to succeed as a writer is by not giving up. 

Rejection is hard, and criticism hurts. But if I let my feelings of discouragement get in the way of what God has called me to do, I know I’ll regret it.

Find Your Source (of Encouragement)

If you’re overwhelmed or discouraged by your writing, sit back and think for a moment. 

What encourages and refreshes you? What can you say or do right now that will turn your discouragement into motivation to learn, grow, and improve? 

Something that usually helps me is writing down my problems/things that discourage me. Once they’re written down, they feel a lot smaller and easier to manage than they did before.

Taking a walk, reading my bible, or spending time with friends and family are some other ways that have helped me rethink my issues with writing—and life in general.

Before You Go…

What encourages you when you’re discouraged?

Let me know down in the comments!

Want to learn how to use writing prompts in your writing? Read the full article here.

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