Claws of the Critics

Claws of the Critics

So, you've written out your first story, you feel good about it, and you've finally gotten up the courage to put it out there for the rest of the world to see. It's an amazing feeling, isn't it? This is, after all, your baby! Your brainchild. The true expression of your emotions and your very soul. And all you want is a little feedback from the public to say, "Wow! We really liked what you wrote! Thanks so much! I hope to see more from you!" Sometimes, those email come to your inbox, and make you feel like you're floating on air. And then....other times...dun dun dun! You get the abrasive howl of the critic in your inbox, and it feels more like you're drowning in quicksand. Prepare yourself for it. It's going to happen no matter what. And it's not always as bad as you think it is. It may feel awful sometimes, but in the long have to look at it as an essential part of expressing what's in your heart. Those are the rules, plain and simple.

Just remember, doing ANYTHING creative is going to bring forth some level of criticism or interpretation. Bottom line. I don't care WHAT you do! You can sit at home all alone, and spend ten years writing the most amazing, most emotionally driven, most draining, story of your entire LIFE. You can have it edited by the finest editors in the business, fix EVERY spelling error, research EVERY fact and reference, and correct EVERY continuity mix up that could POSSIBLY exist. You can channel divine spirits and gather the wisdom of ancient alien civilizations to form an airtight foundation in logic that dazzles the greatest philosophers of your time. You can work yourself into a COMA, losing sleep, losing friends and family, not eating or drinking, in complete solitude on an uncharted deserted island in the middle of the Pacific ocean...JUST trying to find a way to draw the life's BLOOD from your wrists to get the words out on the page for everyone to see your masterpiece! And through all of your tireless efforts, there will *STILL* be someone out there who will find SOME offbeat reason SOMEWHERE in the story to say, "Eh...I didn't like it." Hehehe, you can't avoid it, don't even try. I hate to burn down any images of what you think it'll be like to have folks reading your story, but it's the truth. Trust me, there are NO 'unanimous votes' in this game. They just don't exist. What's important is that you read all of the comments and feedback that you get with every story, and understand what they are all trying to say...without losing your enthusiasm to move forward with another chapter or story. That's the key.

I know that it can make you feel really bad sometimes to hear that someone disliked something that you worked so hard on. Writing is a long and frustrating process sometimes, and without some positive responses, it's hard to put yourself through that kind of punishment. But when you see criticisms or constructive comments about your work, make sure that you read through them, and try to understand what kind of points they're making. While certain rants may seem harsh or inappropriate, if you get to the heart of their might find some really good points that might help you to work harder towards making your next chapter even better. The hard part is simply not taking the criticisms to heart, and letting them discourage you from writing entirely. I know, I know....easier said than done. But, like I said, the criticisms WILL come...and you want to be ready. Don't think about the comments as 'faults and flaws'. Try to think of it as 'attention'. Someone likes what you wrote enough to want to write to you and let you know what they think. They want the best story that they can get out of you, and if they're sending you a note, you must have touched them on SOME level to elicit a response. Am I right? Take a moment, and even if their suggestions seem petty or unfounded, make sure that you take a second look at your own work and try to see if you can understand why they felt that way. Remember, it's easy to develop this 'unconditional love' for what you've written, and it can make you blind to some of the comments that someone is making to improve what you're trying to do with the story. Take a moment to calm down, and just give your story a once over to see if maybe there were a few corners that you could have touched up in the writing. It will ultimately help you to become a better writer in the long run if you're able to look at your own work objectively.

However, another important thing to remember is that YOU, ultimately, are the author of this story. This is your work, your heart, your memories, and your world. So stick to your instincts if you think what you're doing is right. I would never tell any of you to change your whole story around to meet the needs of a few critics. Don't EVER do that. Because you won't ever be able to please everybody, and chances are, you'll end up losing the majority of people who liked the story just fine when you were writing it 'your' way. Make sure that you're still writing the story that YOU want to write. People are there with you, they're reading, they're listening, and they love what you do. Even if the critics rant and rave and threaten to walk away and throw tantrums...if you want the story to go a certain way, and you believe in it, then you let your art thrive and grow however you want it to. That was the whole reason behind writing it, right? Understand, there are a lot of people out there who will get personally involved with your work, and will want to 'advise' and 'guide' and sometimes 'force' the story to be written the way that THEY would like it to be written. But that's not your job in all this. If they wanted a story written JUST to suit them specifically and have it written with the kind of precision that they're demanding from you, then they should have to go through the emotional frustration and the long hours of mind numbing effort that it takes to write their OWN story. This one is YOURS, and you can make it into whatever you believe or dream it to be. Always keep in mind that this is not a story that you are WRITING for other people. This is a story that you chose to SHARE with other people. Don't let the critics barge in and take control of your means of self expression. Stick to your guns and push forward. The true fans of your story will enjoy what YOU have to say a lot more.

So, when reading a criticism or a flame from someone who didn't like your story, make sure that you detach yourself enough to see whatever points they're making...but keep your integrity, and let your heart guide you instead of the folks who might not understand the story the way you do. It's a difficult balance sometimes, I know. I've been there many times myself. But it's all a part of developing a natural instinct in doing what you want to do. You examine each comment, take to heart whatever you find useful, brush off everything you find insulting or misunderstood, and KEEP WRITING! Don't ever let a bad comment ruin your enthusiasm for something you enjoy. Most of the time, the critics don't even mean it to sound as badly as you took it. (Of course, sometimes they DO! Hehehe! But that's a whole other situation. Like I said before, it's 'attention' that they're giving you. And you wouldn't have it if your story didn't have some kind of significant impact on them) Most of the time, when I write back an email to explain my reasons for doing what I did or to thank someone for pointing something out to me that I didn't realize before, they usually write back to say, "But I DID enjoy the story a lot!" So don't take it as 'I hated everything', because it's not always like that.

As for the critics out there, please keep in mind that any kind of art or creative expression really demands that an artist 'expose' himself on a very deep level. That makes them extremely vulnerable to what you might say about their work. Saying things like 'that was just stupid' or 'ewwww sick' or 'I hated this part or this character' can cut a pretty deep gash into somebody if phrased wrong. A lot of people take that to heart, this is their spirit. And even with ten emails from people saying that they loved the only takes 'ONE' bad comment to discourage another attempt at putting their work out there again. Writing is NOT easy. Not by a longshot. Writing just ONE story takes a TON of planning and typing and heart and creativity to put together. Not to mention the courage it takes to let people read it when it's done. Don't be fooled by the fact that because it only takes ten minutes to read, that it only took ten minutes to write. That's never the case. These authors have really manifested something special out of their very souls, and have taken a great risk to put it out there to be judged and criticized by people they don't even know. So take it easy on them, huh? You have no IDEA how hard it is to put these feelings down on paper sometimes.

We all definitely need your honest input to help us get better, and we want you to tell us if you don't understand what's being written...but our hearts are on our sleeves here. So be careful, k?

To you authors, expect the claws to come scratching at your back eventually. The 'beast' is always going to be chasing you for as long as you want to do anything imaginative in your life. Hehehe! But don't just hide out from what the critics are trying to tell you. Don't turn a deaf ear to someone who's trying to help you. Many times, it's something you need to reach that next level in your writing. So pay attention, and keep your head. We can all use a little 'back scratching' every now and then. :)