Posted in creative writing

Thick skin

So you want to be a writer?

Mate, you better have thick skin then. If you decide to share your work, especially with other writers, it’s going to be ripped apart.

Every line, every error, every metaphor, every word is a judgement against your character. You will be judged.

But what matters is how you take it. If you refuse their advice, refuse to take on board what they are saying, no matter how good their intentions are, you won’t improve. In fact, you won’t even survive the publishing process.

Part of being a writer is taking a step back from your work. It’s letting other people tell you their thoughts and feelings about it because they are your reader. If they don’t understand something, then you need to edit it so the next person does.

Of course, there are instances where their advice goes against everything you want to achieve. I was once told to remove a metaphor by several peers on my course from my short story. At the time, I could see why they wanted me to remove it. It was cliched, but that was my intention. My character had romanticised this person to the point of cliche. So I made the decision to keep it, especially after speaking to a lecturer.

It’s a very fine line to making every change that’s requested to you and sticking to your guns. Another writer once said to me, and I would quote them if I remembered who it was (but it was a few years ago now), that she would make all the changes that were requested of her until she came across a draft she defended with all her might. When she reached that level, she waited a few more weeks, read it again and if she was still that proud of it and that’s when she knew she was done

Of course, everyone has their own way of determining whether they love a draft or not. I know people who love their work from the very beginning and refuse any semblance of help. I know people who, even when they’re not too proud of it, will still defend their work and become highly insulted if you even utter a word of negative feedback (negative here being “you need to build the character’s a little more” or “it could use a little more detail”).

When I started my degree, our lecturers turned to the class and said “appreciate peer readings and feedback. It’s the only time you’ll have this level of criticising your entire writing career.” Whilst I had squirmed at the thought of other people reading my work, I understand the sentiment. I even appreciate these moments in class, although I certainly do not go out of my way to have my peers read my work. One thing I quickly found out is that feedback can certainly be hard to get other than the generic “oh it’s good” or “I like x, y, and x”, which, especially if you’re looking for something to improve, is the greatest pain in the ass you could ever receive.

To all aspiring writers, I leave you with this: how do you take criticism? 



I'm currently working my way through a Creative and Professional Writing degree in London.

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