Being able to accept criticism as a writer is vital if you want to have a writing career. People love being critics. They love having opinions, often regarding things they know nothing about, and they especially love knocking other people down. A writer who wants to be published has to be resilient. But why are writers so sensitive?
In my case, it’s because of what writing entails. Isn’t writing a book just like crocheting an afghan or baking a pie? You just make something—right? No, not at all. Writing is opening up a door in your soul and carving people out of whatever you find there. So, when someone criticizes your work, they aren’t saying they disliked some nouns and verbs strung together in Arial or New Times Roman—they are saying they looked into your soul and found it lacking.
Recovering from a blow like that is hard. I think if/when this happens, your book simply hasn’t found the right audience. It’s like falling in love. Sometimes the people you get involved with are complete idiots who don’t appreciate you. If you’re lucky, you find someone who does.
Another reason I’m sensitive about my works is that the characters are real people to me. It’s like if someone put your best friend in a beauty pageant and judged how she walks and looks in a bathing suit. Friends have positive attributes that go far beyond bathing suits. I take long walks with my characters, having meaningful conversations with them. Often, I lean on them when I need support.
Although I write faster these days, produce a different genre of books, and have learned to pay more attention to things like story arcs and plot outlines, I spent years writing my epic fantasy books. I don’t regret the time I spent with them. I was learning how to write. More importantly, I needed that world and those characters at that particular time in my life. Lycian helped me cope with the deaths of my cousins who were like my brother and sister, the death of my grandmother who was primarily responsible for raising me, a miscarriage, and the deaths of two familiars. He was a kind, quiet companion. Aside from my husband, he was my best friend during that period. I needed him, and I’m glad I had him.
Currently, I’m working on a new m/m romance (it’s a mystery romance!) and am absolutely in love with the main characters. Even as I lose myself in the bliss of writing, I’m preparing for how my characters will be judged, how my world will be reduced to so many stars, and how some people will simply not understand it. That’s okay. I love the characters; I like the work (so far), and I know there will be some people out there who will enjoy it. I’m writing it for myself and those people.
4 thoughts on “Why Are Writers So Sensitive?”
This line, exactly: ‘they are saying they looked into your soul and found it lacking.’ LOL.
When I was about 12, I started writing high fantasy, by the time I was 14 I was writing (what I didn’t realise at the time) urban fantasy. I remember once giving my dad some of my fantasy writing to read, it happened to be a passage I was particularly proud of. He just scrunched up his nose and said ‘what on Earth is this weird thing/stuff!?’ He was clearly not my target audience (my bad), but it still crushed my soul a bit that my dad didn’t even feel compelled to put on an act and tell me it was ‘great’.
For the next five years I never shared my stories with ANYONE. But I liked it that way, it was also a good strategy to protect my ‘writing soul’ during a period when my writing was really, really bad. My stories were my escape, my shield, my secret indulgence – especially the high fantasy worlds. It was only when I was 18/19 that I felt confident enough to share my first novel with my mum (magical realism). And since then she has ALWAYS been encouraging, no matter how bad the idea or writing is. I think she knows all I need is some kind words to keep me going. She’s my greatest cheerleader. I would say I’m a stronger writer now (I can weather more criticism than I could when I was little) but I will always be sensitive, even if I pretend I’m not.
I love that you found a writing champion in your mom! I’m glad you’re still writing, too!
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I love your epic fantasy series and I hope your path winds that way again
You’re so sweet to say that. Thank you! I will definitely finish the final book.