Yeah, about sewing.
When I was first married, my church tied quilts for homeless people in Serbia and needed someone to sew the edges. And wouldn’t you know it, I’d just receive a sewing machine as a wedding present. So I took all five quilts home even though I’d never actually used a sewing machine. Hello, it came with instructions!
You know how long I sewed before I realized I’d need pointers if I were to ever produce something I was proud of? Or even turn the quilts into something poor Serbians would recognize as bedding? Maybe ten minutes. My sister saved me.
You know how long I wrote before I realized I’d need pointers in WRITING? Like five years.
Here’s the thing. I completely do NOT want writers hating themselves or their work. However, writing is a communication and it’s extremely difficult to know when you’ve communicated poorly without someone telling you. That telling, even when told in kind way, freaking hurts. For some of us, it’s easier to like our own words more than a critique-partner’s suggestion that we didn’t hook the reader at the beginning, didn’t hit the emotions right, didn’t actually have a plot (or a genre or a main character), etc. For some of us, it takes a ton of humility to accept critique. For me in my twenties, humility was in short supply. You can’t be a good writer without humility.
Note: I said humility, not self-hatred.
Do I have to print it in all-caps?
HATING YOURSELF IS NOT THE PROPER SOLUTION TO OVERCONFIDENCE, HUMILITY IS.
If I could light the words on fire like the Olympic rings, I would.
To sum up, yes, you need confidence to produce stories. But please, if you find yourself telling every critique-partner (like I did) that you already did whatever they’re telling you to do within the story, stop! You haven’t actually done what they’re telling you to do, I promise.
And yes, you need a critical eye when it comes to your own work. If, however, you’re starting to hate yourself and your writing, please stop! We other writers beg you to stop.
(Here, have some of my overconfidence. I’m trying to get rid of it.)
We writers are much better off when we accept the dichotomy that our words and ideas are unique and important AND that without a serious, humble acceptance of critique, our words and ideas may never seem unique and important to others. We have to have both! It’s nirvana if you can get there. I’m trying, I am.
Photo credit: bplanet at freedigitalphotos.net