Sent by Sharon E. Anderson
Like most writers, I knew from a very young age that this was my calling. I knew the world didn’t make any sense and I had something to say about it. And like a child who dreams of being an astronaut or a ballet dancer, I soon found out that becoming an author wasn’t easy. It is difficult to put words on the page. Oh, I put a lot of words on the page, but they weren’t good words. They were seasoned with rhetoric and banal attempts to be wise and clever. It seemed that I knew my work was bad, and so I kept it private – for years.
When I finally grew brave enough, I joined a critique group and for the first time I was faced with pointed criticism of my work.
Sometimes, because I’m a real baby when it comes to stuff like this, it would take me a week to get over an especially heavy-handed critique. Just in time to make it to the next critique meeting.
But then, over the years, something shifted in me. I began going to conferences, taking classes here and there, and hearing the phrase, “Kill your babies.” It refers to those brilliant passages we write that don’t fit anywhere. We want them to, but they don’t serve the story and we have to let them go. I started to see that emotional distance is the first step in being able to receive and accept criticism on any level – from the lowly critique group, to an agent, to a publisher.
I finally figured out that even though it can be painful, there is much to be gained by reading an informative rejection letter, or a poignant professional review.
A few months ago something shifted again. I started writing non-fiction essays and strange as it may seem, I don’t feel like I have a lot invested in any critique I receive from my editors. Maybe it’s because I’m not creating the characters on the page. I don’t know, but I when I look over my edits from my non-fiction people as well as my fiction people, it’s just another job I get to do to make the piece fit. This is a good place to be. Less emotional. Less drama. More professional. It feels good. I guess you can say the baby has grown up!