There are loads of people who think they can write novels, sing, dance, or even paint, but the thing is having the creative desire to do so doesn’t make you an artist. I had a friend who dreamed of becoming a writer, but he couldn’t even make it to the half page of a school essay. He realized thereafter that writing wasn’t really for him. Just like him, there are many people who are ready to take out their pen and paper, that doesn’t mean they’re going to write something anytime now.
It’s also the same with other types of art. When someone tries to sing, write or take on the dance floor, they might be able to get some of the lyrics and tunes. They might be able to get some of the dance steps right, but that doesn’t mean that they could do it in a creative way like dancers do.
They might be able to write a few paragraphs but doesn’t mean that it’s going to make sense. Writing, just like most creative areas, is half art and half science. People might be able to hire an expert to teach them a few tricks, but that wouldn’t do much to help them become the writer or artist they truly aspire to be. It might give them a few points, but there is only one way to become a writer, and that’s by going through loads of failure.
Writing isn’t just a matter of words. It’s more about the art of using them in such a way that it stirs human interest. And to do that, one needs experience. Even one of the world’s greatest writers such as Vladimir Nabokov went through a harsh rejection when he first submitted “Lolita” to Knopf. But guess what? Later on, his piece sold about fifty million copies.
So, even if you think you’re a really fantastic writer, you’re still bound to receive criticisms from people, perhaps even some mockery. Not to worry, though. It’s all just part of the whole process. Anyhow, let’s dig on some of the writing advice from great writers. After all, we’re all going to tear into the publishing industry anytime now, so let’s might as well be prepared.
“The first draft of anything is shit.” - Ernest Hemingway
Some people imagine writing a novel and turning it into a publishing firm the next day. Well, the process is actually more complicated than that. The first draft is only the preface of the whole writing process. There are 5 kinds of drafts in the writing process: (1) the junk draft (2) the structure draft (3) the rough draft (4) the surgery draft (5) and the last draft. The junk draft is as you guessed is the first draft. It’s not surprising to find loads of typos and errors here. After all, not even great writers can perfect their craft during the first try. The structure draft is the part where you’ve managed to read your junk draft for the first time and realized that there was something wrong with the order. It didn’t quite make sense, and so you decided to restructure the idea flow. The rough draft is when you already have something that’s a work in progress. This when your piece is already in good shape, but you still need to work on some of the parts. The surgery draft is when you already removed some bits and excess from your piece that might sway the reader from the real essence of the story. And finally, the last draft! Your story isn’t for you. It’s for the people who will be reading it. This is when you already asked some people to read your manuscript and ask for feedback. Your story isn’t for you. It’s for the people who will be reading it.
So, you see? There’s no harm in reviewing the first draft before making it your final piece. If you’re just going to write a book any anyway, make it the best.
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London
I know loads of writing enthusiasts who are dying to write their first book. They never did. Why? They keep on waiting for that grand inspiration that’s going to tell them the plot to their story. Look, it’s true that sometimes inspiration just hits you like a ton of bricks, but these instances are so rare that you’d be waiting your whole life, and you still won’t have your book yet. Writing prompts and inspirations aren’t magic, and riders aren’t magicians either. Writing is a skill. You have to go and work for it.
If you really want to write a book and then you’ve got to work for it too. That being said, you can’t just wait for some random inspiration to hit you right in the face and tell you what to write about. You have to go and decide for yourself what to write about, and then from there, you can start seeking ways on how to write it.
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham
People who want to be good at writing thinks that they can be better by asking experts to teach them their tricks, but it’s just like what I’ve said in the beginning of this article: writing is half art and half science. It’s true that you won’t make it far as a writer if you don’t know how to use proper grammar, or if you don’t the exact words to use, but the thing is you won’t make it far either if you only arm yourself with writing technicalities. Most of the aspects that make up writing have something to do with creativity. That’s something you need if you want to succeed in the writing industry in the long run. But creativity isn’t something you can learn overnight. Nor is it something you can purchase from the grocery store. Creativity is art. Creativity is developed, and you do so by looking for your inner writer.
Having a good potential as a writer doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easier for you in the process. Sure, you might already know the basic technicalities of good writing, but you’re still going to go through the same struggle that every writer is supposed to go through. It’s the only way for you to grow as a writer.
Joe Baldwin is a native US resident & professional Article writer for https://essaylook.com. He studied English literature and creative writing. He has experience with online web content including blogs, web page content, news, public relations, press releases, and long form sales and industrial presentations.
Two simple words that conjure horror-like images and feelings in any writer. The thought of the ideas ceasing to flow, the words not sitting right on the page--it's terrifying. The worst part about it is it can come at any time...and sometimes it feels like it will last forever.
Writer's block is something you can choose to overcome, however. Whether you're a blogger, a novelist, or an aspiring author, there are simple ways I've found to beat the block.
1. Go for a walk.
I heard many authors talk about this and thought it was rubbish...until I tried it.
There's something about fresh air and quiet that stirs the creativity. I've had some of my best ideas developed while walking, and I've solved many plot holes during a stroll with Henry. Get out of the house and take in the peace and quiet. You'll be surprised--sometimes the ideas you need are there already. You just need a space to listen to them.
2. Switch to another work.
When I feel myself losing steam on a novel, I'll briefly switch to an article, a blog post, or even a short story. Sometimes mixing the genre up can help, too. Just make sure you don't take too long of a break and you do go back to it. Sometimes setting it aside for a short period of time, though, can jog your creativity.
3. Talk about your plot holes/ issues with a trusted friend.
Sometimes writer's block happens just because you have a difficult plot situation or issue to deal with. Writer's block is our way of putting the problem aside because we don't know how to fix it. I've found talking through the plot can sometimes lead to an idea.
My husband is not a writer or even a reader. However, I've solved many plot issues and got "unstuck" on a story just by talking about it with him. Sometimes a person who isn't deeply involved in the writing can help you see a solution you couldn't. It is hard to be objective as a writer--we are our own worst critics. A fresh eye might or listening ear may be able to help you overcome doubt and confusion, which can ultimately help you beat writer's block.
4. Read a book.
If you can't write, do the next best thing--do some reading. I think of each book I read, no matter what genre, as research and skill building for my writing. Every book teaches me new techniques, new styles, and new ideas. It's nice to step into the reader's perspective now and then. So take a break from your writing and do some reading. You might just find it inspires you to get back to it.
5. Keep your goals in mind.
When I get frustrated and want to succumb to writer's block, I think about my writing goals. I think about all of the successes I've had so far, and I usually get inspired to push through.
Writer's block can be crippling. It can make you question your dedication, your skill, and even your reasons for writing. However, keeping a bulletin board with your goals, dreams, and writing aspirations can help you remain focused. Writer's block happens to all of us. It is the truly dedicated author, however, who can push through to get to the other side.
Lindsay Detwiler is the author of five contemporary romance novels, a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post, and a high school English teacher. Visit her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You've achieved that goal--you have your first published work! And now, a second dream is coming true--your first book signing or author event.
It's thrilling to see your hard work pay off and your dreams come true. Seeing the sign on the door of your venue or bookstore is surreal. However, once the shock and excitement wears off, you might have one big, daunting question: What the hell do you do now?
I can remember seeing my picture on my local Barnes & Noble for my first book signing. In some ways, I couldn't rationalize that it was actually my picture. It felt like a dream because it had been a goal for so long. Once I got over the initial shock, though, panic set in. I didn't feel like a "real" author. I had no idea what I was supposed to do at a book signing. What if people showed up expecting a "real" author smoothly talking about plot arcs and characterization?
Or even worse, what if no one showed up at all?
Luckily, I had an amazing team of support to quell my fears, to offer me a Pepto Bismol when I felt like I was going to vomit from nerves, and to make sure I wasn't sitting all alone at a lonely, empty table. My first event went so well, and over the past few years, I've found myself getting less nervous for author events.
I'm still no expert. I still have my socially awkward "What do I do?" moments. I still shy away from the spotlight and lack confidence I should have in my salesmanship. Nonetheless, over quite a few author events, I've learned some tips I wish I had known when I first started.
1. Take a team who know your books with you.
Especially if you're on the introverted side, pitching your work to strangers can be intimidating. There are so many sales' techniques that go into a book writing career. You do have to be able to sell your work to strangers. I found this intimidating. Having friends or family members who know your book and can objectively tell others about it will help you out if you freeze up.
My husband is naturally extroverted and has an easier time talking to people. He's always right by my side during events because he helps make up for my shyness. He gets people talking and feeling comfortable; I've found sometimes customers are shy and nervous to approach.
Also, having a team with you is a confidence boost. It helps you to have fun, to realize it's all okay, and to not have to awkwardly look busy if there aren't any people approaching your table.
2. Practice your two sentence pitch.
Your goal at book events is always to gain new fans. If you can sell to one new reader, you've been successful.
Strangers who approach you at signings typically have a few questions in common
It seems crazy, but sometimes as an author, it is so hard for us to boil our stories down to a quick description. We spend so much time elaborating on characters and settings that when we're asked to take it back to the basics, we stumble.
Prepare a few sentences that describe your book. That way, you can give potential customers an idea. Typically, people feel awkward reading the back of the book when you're right there. Having a quick pitch to pique their interest will help you seem more confident. I've also found as a new author it helps to have comparison authors. "Readers compare my work or writing to___insert familiar author name____" can give readers a point of reference. Just make sure you're being honest. I always say my stories are similar to stories in the Nicholas Sparks' genre. I don't claim to be Nicholas Sparks, however.
3. Have attractive giveaways or freebies.
People like free stuff. Period.
Attract new readers to your table with giveaways and freebies. I use Vistaprint to make paper products like postcards with all my covers and business cards. Bookmarks with your book cover are useful; I like Overnight Prints or Print Runner.
Try to have a few unique items to giveaway, too. Make a few grocery totes on a photo website to give to the first few customers. I have had pins made on Etsy shops. I also have made my own bottlecap magnets by printing out pictures of my books and using Mod Podge to create magnets. These were really popular. Get creative. Think about what you would like to use. Don't limit yourself to book covers, either; you can use quotes from your book to adorn totes, bags, shirts, etc.
The goal is to make people remember you.
Tell everyone about your event weeks in advance, and send reminders a few days before. Don't be shy! The best way to ensure a good turnout is to take the initiative to invite people. Treat it almost like a party! Create a Facebook event page, send out flyers, and email relatives. Spread the word.
When strangers see your author table crowded, it helps reassure them that you're a good writer and worth their time. The more people at your event, the more likely you are to sell to strangers.
5. Ask for spellings of names.
When personalizing books you sign, don't be afraid to ask for spellings. I have everyone spell their name just because you never know if someone has a unique spelling. People aren't offended by this; they like that you want to get it right.
Don't know what to write in a book? Come up with a few common sayings you can tweak. I like to write something like "It was great to meet you!" People like the idea that if you get big, they will have a personalized book saying they met you. Also, date every book.
If you are super stumped, ask the purchaser what they would like you to write. If nothing else, just put their name and sign your name with the date.
6. Dress to be confident and comfortable.
You will be standing a lot. Wear comfortable shoes. Trust me.
I usually get a new outfit for each event because I want to feel confident. Find something that makes you feel good so self-consciousness isn't added to your nervousness. I always wear a dress to show readers I'm taking things seriously. I like to dress professionally to show my professional attitude toward my writing.
7. Be realistic in your goals.
Even J.K. Rowling had a few empty book events when she first started. Don't panic if you have an event where you only sell one or two copies. I've had quite a few events where I was lucky to sell two books. I've also had events where I sold over fifty copies in a few hours. All sorts of things like schedules, weather, time, and advertising can affect your turnout. Don't take it to heart if you have a sparse event.
Also, if you are a new writer, realize people are hesitant to spend hard-earned cash on a newbie. With each book you publish, it gets easier. People trust someone with a backlist. I've seen many more strangers willing to invest in my work now that I've released five books versus when I had only written one. Give yourself time to grow a fan base.
At the end of the day, you've done something few can say they've accomplished. Celebrate that. My husband always tells me even if only one person buys my book, that's one person who is reading words I made up. That's pretty exciting.
Celebrate each small victory and appreciate the journey. I know that's easier said than done, but be patient. Your time will come if you just keep at it.
8. Just smile and be yourself.
You don't have to know what you're doing. Seriously. Tell people it's your first event. Tell people you're still getting used to the author title. People like genuine. People like personality. It's okay to not be perfect.
Just be friendly, be yourself, and the rest will fall into place.
Have a question about books, writing, or the author journey? Let it in the comments and I will address it in a future blog post! Thanks for reading, and let me know how your signings go!
1. Avoid "is" and "was" when possible.
Linking verbs weaken the power of your words and the movement of your piece. Look back at your writing. Eliminate "is," "was," and any other being verbs from your work when possible.
2. Use metaphors and similes creatively.
The key is to create description that your readers can relate to and say "Oh yes, I get what the writer's saying here" while also writing a memorable, unique idea. Metaphors and similes can allow you to create standout connections that are memorable. Push yourself past the first simile and metaphor your create in order to avoid common ideas. So many people might write that something is as "cold as ice." How can you be different? What else comes to mind when you think of the meaning you are trying to get across?
Use comparisons others will connect with but maybe haven't connected to your subject matter.
3. Think about all five senses.
We often rely solely on sight and sound when trying to describe something. Go beyond. Can you capture the smell of the scene? Taste? Touch? Try to make the scene a full-body experience for the reader to the point it would be fitting.
4. Reconsider your verbs, not your adjectives.
Novice writers try to jam adjectives into their piece to add description. Adjectives, however, typically fall flat, especially when you string them in a line. Verbs are the most powerful way to kick up your description. Instead of walking, does your character saunter, trod, parade, march, skip, or dash? Think about verbs that can convey the emotion you are trying to capture. Verbs keep your writing moving and exciting. Next time you write a piece, go back through and circle your verbs. Then, try to challenge yourself to up your word choice.
Check out Pinterest for great posts about word replacements. I have several word pins on my Creative Writing Board for you to check out.
5. Focus on the smallest detail you can while still capturing the emotion.
You're all in on this novel writing idea. You're going to do it--you're going to write your first book.
There's just one problem: What will you write about?
Over the past few years of my writing journey, I've chatted with so many people who desperately want to see their name on the cover of a novel, who want to achieve the ultimate goal of writing a book. However, many of these people never accomplish their goal. It's not because they don't want to, they don't have the drive, or they don't have the talent.
It's just that "the" idea hasn't struck them.
So how do you get around this? Unless you're J.K. Rowling who dreamed up Harry Potter on a train or Stephanie Meyer who had a dream about Edward, most of us can't just wait for inspiration to fall into our lap. We have to find it.
I've been fortunate that the idea train keeps on driving through my brain. Right now, I have more ideas for novels than I have time to write. This power for inspiration, however, only unlocked after novel one. Honestly, the more you write and the more confidence you gain, the more you realize that ideas are literally everywhere.
As a new writer, though, I know it doesn't feel that way. Below are my five tips for finding inspiration and ideas to get your novel started.
1. Ask yourself what you find intriguing.
A novel is a huge investment of time. From writing to editing to marketing, you have to be passionate about your subject matter. Ask yourself what you find intriguing or interesting in the world around you. For me, my first novel Voice of Innocence came to be because I was always fascinated with wrongful conviction.
Once you have your topic, try to think of a different angle on your topic. Many books had been written about wrongful conviction, but few focused on the loved one of a wrongfully convicted person. I saw the potential for romance from the idea. Try to think about your topic in a different way, and you just mind find an angle that will work for a new novel.
2. Look to your real life.
While many see real life as humdrum or tedious, there is actually a lot of story potential in the world around you. Keep a notebook with you and jot down ideas, events, people, or places you find interesting. Sometimes even a stranger on the street can inspire your thought process if you're paying attention.
Our own lives can also jump start ideas. One of my novels came to be when I ran into my husband's best friend from elementary school. Just like that, an idea for a new romance came to me. You must be open and willing to see inspiration in order for it to come. Be receptive, be open-minded, and be looking for it. You never know when it might strike.
3. Look to your favorite authors and books.
Let's be clear--I'm not suggesting you plagiarize. If you are going to invest your time in a novel, you want to make sure it is completely your own. However, reading in your genre can serve to inspire you. For me, it's about seeing what "holes" there are in the market.
What are the tendencies of the books in your genre? Can you break those tendencies and still be marketable? Who is being left out in your genre?
These are questions that can create idea possiblities.
4. Free write frequently.
Even now, after publishing five novels, the best inspiration I get is from free writing frequently. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboards is the best way to keep the creative juices flowing and the storytelling alive in your own mind.
Don't force yourself to write for a purpose. Let your mind wander. Sometimes, just the act of writing will create inspiration for a new story or book.
5. Give an idea time to breathe.
Found an idea you think might work?
Excellent. Now take the pressure off and give your idea time to generate itself more fully.
The way I know I've found an idea worthy of writing about is that it continues to haunt me weeks, months, even years after I've developed it.
If this is your first novel, obviously you don't want to wait years to start writing. However, give your idea some time. If in a few weeks, it still is something you're passionate about, pursue it. If not, giving it time to breathe may help you develop it and make it more complex.
Developing an idea you feel confident enough to write a novel about isn't an easy task. For some authors, the idea simply seems to fall from the sky, the heavens, or any other transcendent place. For some of us, though, it takes effort to scavenge for the novel-winning idea.
Be patient with yourself, keep your eyes open, and don't be afraid to grasp at straws for a while until you find "the" idea.
All I can tell you is that when you do find it, there will be no doubt that you've found "the" idea you're willing to put your heart out there for.
As a high school English teacher and a published author, I was ecstatic when given the opportunity to teach a creative writing class… but also terrified. Although writing is my passion, teaching creative writing seemed intimidating. How do you walk the fine line between giving helpful constructive criticism and squashing a child’s confidence? How do teach students to be truly creative, to free the restraints we tightly put in place in the traditional Language Arts classroom?
I’m going into my third year of teaching creative writing, and I can say I haven’t completely mastered it. The beautiful yet daunting element of creative writing is you can never truly reach perfection. However, here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to help your creative writing class be successful.
If we want to teach our students to be fearless in their writing, we have to be fearless in our own writing. Try to participate in the activities you set before your students—then be willing to share your work. Students need to see you struggle, get excited, and open up about your own writing in order to understand the process.
2.Create an atmosphere of honesty.
From day one, we talk about the value of honesty. Telling every student “great job” only cheapens their effort, their work, and the class. I teach proper critiquing etiquette in the first week so students understand the difference between constructive criticism and cruelty. They learn to be open with each other about what works and what doesn’t so we can all grow.
3.Push students out of their writing styles.
We cover all genres in my classroom, including humor. Many students will be nervous about switching what they perceive as their genre, but encourage them to go outside of their comfort zones. Remind them it’s okay to fail at a genre. Also remind them that writing other genres can help them improve elements in their preferred genre.
4.Let students create prompts sometimes.
Coming up with prompts can be exhausting. Once in a while, I throw the task to the students. I’ve found that when I’m out of creative ideas, they often can come through, creating challenging and engaging prompts. It also gives them a sense of ownership of the class.
5. Look for writing books to help you.
Many creative writing books, in my opinion, are too stiff, formulaic, and the antithesis of creativity. However, there are some great books out there. Two of my favorites are Karen Benke’s Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing and Jennifer Traig’s Don’t Forget to Write for the Secondary Grades.
6.Read On Writing by Steven King.
As a teacher, this book gives you great perspective from one of the most successful writers of our time. This book does have a lot of profanity, so it probably isn’t something you’d want to have your students read as part of the class. However, it gave me new perspectives on what I was teaching and has helped me help the students.
7.Incorporate non-writing, creativity building activities.
You don’t have to write every single day to teach creative writing. Focus on the “creativity” part. Sometimes, we do challenging art projects or group games that enhance creativity. Think outside of the box with your lesson plans in order to help students think outside of the box with their writing.
8.Have free write Fridays.
This year, Fridays will be days students can choose what project they work on, anything from a book, a story, a poem, or even improving the writing in an essay. Giving students ownership of their tasks helps them understand the value of what you are teaching.
9.Encourage students to keep journals.
Sometimes great story ideas can come from journal writing. Encourage students to keep journals outside of the classroom for idea generation.
10.Create an outside audience once students are comfortable with sharing.
Giving students an audience can make their writing feel more real. Invite in another class for a flash fiction reading. My students also wrote children’s books last year. We invited in students from the classroom for students with multi-disabilities to be our guests.
11.Always encourage students to look for the positives in writing before criticizing.
Teach students that every piece of writing has a positive. This will help build confidence.
12.Examine writing of the greats.
Pull in pieces from a variety of writers, and encourage students to bring in pieces of writing that move them.
13.Talk about blogging.
Even students who aren’t interested in publishing novels may be able to benefit from a discussion of creative non-fiction, especially with blogging. Open students’ eyes to the world of blogging and do mini-lessons on things like SEO, advertising, and guest blogging to show them new possibilities.
14.Teach students how to write for social media.
Social media is the modern platform for writers. Teach students how social media can be a tool, no matter what your profession. Talk about best practices for different social platforms and discuss internet safety. Creative writing has so many different mediums; teach as many as you can.
15.Encourage knowledge of self.
I encourage students to explore who they are through various activities. We talk frequently about how knowledge of self helps with knowledge of writing. Activities such as writing six-word memoirs help students evaluate who they are and how it impacts their writing.
16.Teach students to write on command.
Many students complain that they cannot write at school; they only write at home. I make students write in class anyway. We talk about how expanding your writing atmosphere helps you grow as a writer. We also discuss how even if you scrap what you write in school, there may be some gems you can use.
17.Promote editing and rewriting.
Real writers rewrite…and rewrite…and rewrite. I try to promote this ideal in my class. We use peer feedback to help fix issues in first drafts and to reveal weaknesses.
18.Connect with professionals in the field.
Bring in writers of all genres and fields. Seeing professionals helps make the content of the class real. I recently signed up for some Skype classroom visits with authors. There are so many authors who will Skype with your students and answer questions.
19.Promote reading as a means of developing writing.
Encourage students to read in addition to writing. All of the greats talk about how important it is to read if you want to be a great writer. Promote this ideal in your writing classroom.
20.Create group writing activities.
We don’t always write as individuals. I encourage collaboration for certain activities. Students benefit from seeing other students’ great ideas and also their struggles. It promotes confidence and builds an atmosphere of comfort in the classroom.
Above all, creating a space where students feel comfortable enough to write, share, explore, and even make mistakes is crucial for a successful writing class. I wish you all the best with your creative writing class and encourage you to share any tips you have found to be successful in the comments below!
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English Teacher and a published contemporary romance author. To learn more about her, check out her Facebook, her blog, and her Twitter page
Showering off the smell of sunscreen and sweat, I trudged into my room to put on attire that would be somewhat presentable. I dumped my lemonade into a travel mug, tossed my hair into a ponytail, and grabbed my messenger bag. I inwardly whined and complained, dreading the next three hours.
The absolute last thing I wanted to be doing that beautiful summer night was going to a college class about literature and death. The dutiful student I was, however, I got in my car and sped toward the college, saying goodbye to the whimsical freedom typifying summer. I stomped into the class, my scowl matching that of several other students “stuck” taking a summer course.
Adding a year of college to earn a second degree seemed like a wise plan—until I realized I’d have to take a summer class. I was a go-getter, a dedicated academic. I had a passion for literature and learning. But a class over the summer? No thanks. I’d rather be napping on the deck reading “smutty” literature or eating ice cream by the gallon. Essays, assigned readings, and quizzes were threatening to cramp my style.
However, little did my immature twentysomething self know that class, “The Literature of Health and Healing,” would change everything.
Over the course of the summer, Dr. Neff selected works fitting the theme of health and healing—but also death, as the course title was pretty misleading. We read Tuesdays with Morrie and watched Awakenings. We read poems about aging and about cancer. We talked about bucket lists, about dreams, about time. Dr. Neff emphasized the idea that humans think they have so much time, but it’s never promised. I realized how many things I’d been putting off and how naïve I’d been to think I had forever.
And, to my surprise, something more magical than summer freedom happened. I got inspired.
One night on the drive home from class, I got to thinking about my own bucket list. The number one item on my list was to write a novel, but I’d been putting it off. I had plenty of time. Plus, who did I think I was? What made me think I could do it?
Unknowingly, though, Dr. Neff’s words and lessons helped me put pen to paper. That night, I got home, and the title Voice of Innocence came to me. I ran to my parents’ deck and started penning what would become my first published novel years later. I still have the green notebook I wrote in that summer night after class. It was all because of that class I found the motivation to pursue my passion, something totally unexpected on that first night of dragging myself to school.
Sometimes in life, the things we dread the most, the things we whine about the most, become the best things. For me, the college class that initially cramped my summer style would lead me on a new life path. I’ve found that even in adult life, things I initially dread sometimes turn into the most memorable, beautiful, or beloved things in my life.
So the next time your adviser insists you sign up for a college class that makes you want to gouge your own eyes out, breathe in and realize it will be okay. It might be more than okay.
Because college isn’t just about partying, drinking games, and wearing sweatpants to class. It’s about deciding where your life is going to go.
And you just never know what class, dreaded or not, will lead you there.
It has finally happened. You published that article, book, or blog post. Your words are in front of a real audience. It’s the dream you’ve been thinking about over and over... and now it’s real.
When it happens, the feeling is nothing short of sheer euphoria. You’re dancing around the house to the new Pitbull song. You’re smiling to the neighbor you don’t even really like. You’re skipping through the grocery store aisles. You’re singing a little louder in the shower.
And then it happens. The thing that can’t be undone, the words that can’t be unseen.
You scroll down to the comments section of your article or the review section of Amazon and you see it.
A harsh comment, a criticizing post, a one-star review. You read words like “ridiculous” or “untalented” or “mediocre” if you’re lucky. Sometimes, you might find even more scathing words, more deliberately hurtful terms.
Suddenly, you’re not dancing to any song. The shower singing has been replaced with wallowing, the words from the negative review playing over and over again.
You feel like you were a fool to think you could chase this dream, threatened by this new piece of “evidence” supporting your worst fear―you’re not good at all.
Writing and Self-Doubt
We’ve all been there―that first negative comment or review.
We’re told to expect it in this business. It’s a subjective field, and everyone is truly entitled to an opinion.
It is a good thing to get honest reviews. As a writer, you need to be able to take constructive criticism and to see your weaknesses. Writing is not a craft for perfectionists because it can’t really be perfected. There’s always something you can improve upon. Some of the best learning experiences I’ve had as a writer have stemmed from negative reviews or harsh criticism. They’ve pushed me to take an honest look at my craft.
Part of the reason negative comments can play so much on a writer’s psyche is because of the intrinsically personal nature of our work. Every writer struggles with a piece of self-doubt, at least to some extent. How couldn’t you? After all, every single word you put on a page is a reflection of who you are, of what you believe, of your innermost thoughts. In many ways, the words on the page or screen are artifacts of your own heart you are putting out for the world to judge.
You want to impact people in a positive way. You want people to be moved by your words and ideas. You want to be successful.
It’s hard when someone rips your work, your purpose apart, even if their intention is honesty.
So what do you do?
Over the past two years of writing, I’ve learned that dealing with criticism is part of the territory. Here are some ways I’ve learned how to not only cope with criticism and negative reviews, but to grow from it.
1. Realize that all writing is subjective
Every single one of the greats has faced negative reviews or comments. Herman Melville, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Emily Bronte all received harsh criticism about works we now tout as classics.
It’s not so much a “misery loves company” aspect you should focus on. It’s the idea every piece of writing is going to have critics. Each reader comes into a written work with preconceived notions, one-of-a-kind life experiences, and firm beliefs about aspects of life. Sometimes what you write will simply strike a nerve. Sometimes a reader will be too disconnected from your topic or beliefs.
Sometimes criticism and negative reviews aren’t necessarily a reflection of your poor writing or lack of talent; it’s simply a personality conflict or matter of preference.
When I started writing, I told myself if I impacted one person in a positive way, I’d be successful. Thus, when I get a bad review or someone doesn’t like my work, I remind myself I’ve impacted other people in a positive way. Try to think about the fact your work has had a positive impact on at least one person for every person it has negatively impacted.
2. Ask what you can learn from negative reviews
Some writers advise that reviews should always be ignored in order to keep your self-confidence healthy. I understand this perspective because I’ve had a few negative reviews or comments threaten to uproot me from my writing path.
However, over the past two years, I’ve realized there is something lost when you don’t examine your reviews or comments. I think even negative reviews teach you something. They teach you how your work is being perceived. They teach you what matters most to you. They teach you to toughen up as a writer and focus on your personal reasons for writing.
Most of all, I think negative reviews and comments can help you discover your main goals as a writer and who you want to be.
The key to growing from criticism is to know when to accept it as truth and when to ignore it. It’s about intuition as a writer and being able to walk the fine line between accepting criticism and letting it overpower you.
Read your reviews if you have the self-confidence to persevere if there are harsh ones. Take an honest look at yourself and your writing to notice any valid trends in reviews. Then, most importantly... write on. Never let a bad review or comment derail your writing journey.
3. Shrug off ridiculous comments.
Sometimes, negative comments come in the form of cruel criticism instead of constructive criticism. Harsh expletives, scathing remarks, and even hurtful personal comments sometimes show up. There are people out there who just take pleasure in ripping others apart. We tell ourselves these type of comments hold no merit and try to let them go.
It doesn’t make them hurt any less.
Recently, a critical comment was left on a piece of writing I published. It bothered me not because it was criticizing my work, but because it wasn’t even critiquing what I was actually writing about or my writing. It made claims about my personal character and topic when it was evident the person commenting hadn’t actually read my writing.
My husband, who frequently tells me to toughen up when it comes to critics, decided to help me out. He’s not a reader or a writer, so he related it to his area of expertise―gaming. He showed me one of PewDiePie’s mean comments videos where he reads the cruel comments he receives.
I was horrified by the remarks people leave for him, ranging from debilitating hate to death wishes.
However, PewDiePie does what so many of us struggle to do: He shrugs them off. Perhaps he doesn’t have the most diplomatic method of dealing with these messages;he makes videos poking fun at his haters. However, the idea is still there: You’ve got to laugh off the comments that are vicious just for the sake of being vicious.
This is not to say any comment that’s less than rosy does not hold merit or should be ignored. Negative but professional comments are valid.
But when you know without a doubt a review or comment has the sole goal of humiliating you or makes outlandish claims, then take a play from PewDiePie’s book (sort of).
Laugh about it.
Then shrug it off and ignore it. As a professional writer, I wouldn’t recommend the whole video shaming situation, just to be clear―although, in all fairness, I did laugh at some of PewDiePie’s jokes.
The Bottom Line: Criticism Will Happen
There are so many tough aspects of the writer’s life, and criticism is definitely one of them. It can be difficult as a new writer to overcome harsh critiques of your work, especially if you are passionate about your topic and craft.
However, criticism doesn’t have to be a career-ending, joy-deflating ordeal.
Instead, you have to learn to accept criticism as a part of the field but not let it deter you from writing what you are compelled to write.
When you learn to accept criticism as a part of the territory, you can start to see it as something to grow from.
I think we can all learn from one of the writing masters, Stephen King, and what he says in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft:
I have spent a good many years since―too many, I think―being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.
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