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When it comes to writing, certain things can be both easy and challenging at the same time. Once I finish a story, a part of me jumps and smiles and opens the next bottle of wine to celebrate… who am I kidding? I drink even when I’m not done writing. But my alcoholism is not today’s subject, I promise. I want to talk about that collective fear we writers get as the moment to show our work arrives. This happens to everyone, from seasoned authors who seem to get ideas out of their behinds every time they visit the toilet to novice and constipated bloggers who have a hard time coming up with new ideas.
When everything is set and done, we come face to face with vulnerability. We don’t want to show our work to anyone; people are going to laugh at us. Is there a better way we can do this without exposing ourselves?
This vital part of the writing process shall never be overlooked: we have to give our story to people to read it and tell us what they think. I am aware that I tend to quote Stephen King a lot. Some of you may think I’m as weird as any of his characters (and you are not wrong about that), so I’m gonna reference the master of horror once more.
In his book On Writing, he advises that we give our manuscript to close friends for feedback. This is important, he says, because it allows you to see different perspectives and ideas that can make your story better. I remember when I read that advice for the first time, I made friends I knew were avid readers, hoping they would want to read my stories. Some of them said yes, others said maybe, and others stopped talking to me because they thought I was crazy.
Of course, I’m crazy. I write fiction. What did they expect?
Regardless, I followed King’s advice and did the work, even though I felt vulnerable. There is nothing wrong with feeling this way. What’s wrong is not to do anything about it. I can cope with it without feeling like the world is crumbling down my feet by acknowledging an important fact: feeling vulnerable is not going to pay the bills.
Among the people who read my work, there is someone I consider a mentor. Every time I send my mentor a manuscript, the feedback I receive makes the story so much better it makes me smile and think, “Uh, this sounds way better than I could’ve imagined it.” True, there are times when I disagree, but that’s only expected since the whole point of writing is to be better at it every day. What would I be doing with my life otherwise?
One thing that used to make me even more vulnerable when I started was that I took everything personally. So the obvious point here, I said to myself, STOP TAKING EVERYTHING PERSONALLY!
At first, I used to think, “Why wouldn’t I take it personally? It’s my story!”
I still remember my first review ever on a novella I wrote title Waterless, published in my story collection Hidden Secrets. The review was demeaning and constructive at the same time. Still, since I was a tad more inexperienced than I am now, the first thing I did was freak out, take the story down, and work on it again.
Years later, I published it one more time, and nobody has written a bad review… or a good one… I wonder if that’s a good thing.
Either way, the point is this: as writers, we’re going to get criticized. I’m lucky because I get criticized in many more ways: the job I have, the fact that I always wear the same shirt, and whether I’m qualified to breathe the same air everyone else.
How cool is that?
So I tell you, amigos y amigas, don’t feel bad because you are a crazy, antisocial writer whose list of imaginary friends surpasses your list of actual friends. Instead, embrace the freak who lives inside you and get to work; we all want to read your stories as well.
I hope to see you all on my social media accounts, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where I talk about books, reading, writing and my personal life.
Stay safe, and don’t forget: keep writing your story.
Until next time.