I’ve been struggling with my story. So I went outside of my writing group, looking for new insight. Went to a meet up with several other writers. I received some good feedback but one person was less than constructive. They referred to my heroine as stupid . Over and over. Then a few more times for good measure. During another writer’s critique, the person said, “I really like your heroine. She’s not stupid,” while looking pointedly in my direction.
I like to think of myself as a decent writer. I’m no [insert name of a writer you think is awesome], but I’m okay. I can handle constructive criticism. But this wasn’t constructive, it was personal and mean.
I walked out feeling like an idiot who writes idiots because I’m too idiotic to know I’m an idiot. I got in my car and burst into tears and cried the whole way home. No one has ever made me feel so shitty about my writing. My complicated knot of ego and drive came undone and I couldn’t write for a week.
This person said something else though. They said, “I don’t get it. Why is your heroine here at this moment, doing this thing? Why not ten years from now? Why not ten years ago?”
I had no answer. That question whirled around me for days. It wouldn’t leave me alone. After wallowing and whining, I sat down and re-read my story and said, “Yeah. Why now?”
So I answered that question. And now I have a fresh back-story, an external goal for my heroine and a much stronger novel.
They were right. No, not about my heroine. She’s not stupid. That’s a shitty thing to say to a fellow writer. But I have been struggling with back story and external journey and they asked the question I needed to ask, but didn’t know how to articulate.
So the powerful lesson I learned, dear writer-friends, is that all criticism has value, whether it’s to thicken your hide or to force you to deal with your weaknesses. Don’t discount the bullies, the blunt speakers or the haters. Shove aside your ego (and tears) and ask yourself if you can use the experience to be a better writer.
Then go be a better writer.