Writers are very funny animals. They love words, which I guess right there is pretty weird as far as most folks are concerned. They also like to do silly things like collect old dictionaries, odd and unusual reference books, old maps, time tables, train schedules – you name it. If it’s some sort of reference that might someday enable us to add authenticity to a story or essay we want it.
We also like people to read what we’ve written. Naturally. I suppose that isn’t so strange – but there is a bit of a catch for the reader. Oh yes, you don’t get away with simply reading it – you have to give feedback. Writers love many things, but nothing so much as feedback.
A few years ago, I got involved with an online writing group called Writer’s Village University. On the face of it, it sounded like a writer’s haven. Over 200 free courses, a chance to read and be read by other writers, message boards, forums, etc. all for a very modest sum. And off I went like the bright-eyed, hope-springs-eternal writer that I am – believing this was going to be an incredible experience.
Well, truly there were some incredible things that happened. The biggest I think was meeting my buddy Michael whose writing talent slapped me upside the head like a train going 100 mph. I was actually in awe of the man. Wow, I thought, if only I could write like that!
To my utter amazement he seemed to like my writing as well. We sort of formed a bit of a mutual admiration society and sought out other writers to share in the fun.
Sadly, there were many wannabe writers there. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have admiration for anyone who aspires to anything and is willing to put in the work. But many I’m afraid were just looking for the atta boys (or atta girls) and didn’t take too kindly to actual criticism.
That’s the problem for writers. Even really good ones. It’s hard to swallow that criticism. It’s hard to see why someone wouldn’t love what you’ve spent so much time (possibly months or even years) crafting. But part of being in this group was to give what was commonly called a ‘crit.’ Many times these crits didn’t go over well. And feelings were hurt and sometimes worse. Or even payback so to speak was exacted upon the crit-er.
Within a few months both Michael and I were ready to leave the group for the same reason (which we learned in later conversations with one another) – people said they wanted feedback but in fact they wanted validation. Which to my way of thinking is not the same thing.
It’s hard to critique a person’s work – especially if you like them. It’s harder still when you’ve with the best of intentions critiqued someone’s work and they’ve blown your head off for it. Actually, it’s quite the trick to learn just how many eggshells one must trod upon lightly in order not to get your head blown off.
I think if you want to be a writer – or really any kind of artist, you must have or grow a very thick skin. And be willing to hear anything anyone has to say about what you write. Even if you don’t like it and even if you don’t agree. Because even on the really bad ‘reviews’ you learn something – if only who isn’t your public.
So despite it all – I’m one of those writers who wants you to tell me honestly what you think of what I have written. Whether you like it or not. Naturally I would prefer to wow you with my incredible skills but I’d rather hear that I didn’t – if that’s the honest truth – than to have you blow smoke up my skirt (much fun as that might be under the right circumstances. 😉 hehe).
So dear readers, please do feel free to say what you think and for that I will give you my eternal gratitude.