Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hit Me With Your Best Shot!

To me, criticism has always equalled I decided to become a published writer. I guess you can compare that to a person with an aversion to blood deciding to become a heart surgeon. Of course, logically, I know that rejection and criticism are not the same thing. One is debilitating and the other is...severely debilitating. Published author, Christie Craig, has been rejected over 100 times! Believe me, I've seen the cardboard box full of letters--she's not exaggerating. If I'd had that many rejection notices, you'd find me curled up in a corner somewhere doing my best Glenn Close interpretation, clicking a lamp on and off! And we won't even touch the boiled bunnies!

Growing up, writing was my "thing". It was my niche (I was the only person in my class who knew what "niche" meant, how to spell it and how use it in a sentence!). I carried that attitude and confidence with me into adulthood. So, when I decided to take writing to the next level and become published, I just knew no one could resist my perfect stories! I found a critique partner, joined RWA, entered contests and participated in workshops. And, I promptly found out my heroine was annoying, the plot contained a hole a flaming meteor could fly through and I head-jumped like I had a multiple personality disorder. And the comments were pretty hard to miss as they were written in bright, slashing red ink. I swear I thought my contest entries had hemorrhaged under the scalpel of the judges' red pens!!

Immediately, my initial reaction was disbelief, hurt and an anger that burned worse than my cooking! Didn't they understand that I was the next Nora Roberts-meets-Terry McMillan? How could they say those things?? So, I slammed down my pen--well, mouse--and...and...died. I died. My pride died. My ego flatlined. My offended feelings plunged into that slow swan dive. My righteous, angry fat lady sang. But, then...I grew. I grew up and realized that criticism--constructive criticism--doesn't equal persecution. In order to increase, in order to elevate from unpublished to published author, I had to adopt an openness and willingness to receive more experienced, objective advice. Truth be told, my sister telling me she loved my manuscript didn't help me nearly as much as the judge who told me my hero and heroine weren't likable! Painful? Oh most definitely! But, it also made me go back and examine my characters to see if there was any truth to that statement. And, it turned out, that yes, it held a grain of truth--Okay, so she nailed it on the head! Criticism is how we learn, how we better our craft and how we push beyond what we imagined ourselves capable of.

No, I'm not going to lie and say, Oh critique is so easy to take now. Lie, lie, lie! My heart still seizes up and "They just don't understand what I'm trying to do here!" wants to spill from my lips. But, after that quick moment of angst, I push up my sleeves, apply make-up to that black-eye on my feelings and get down to the business of evolving.


Christy Reece said...

Naima, you're so right about growing and evolving. Rejections and critiques can be some of the most painful experiences we go through as writers, but also the most enlightening and strenghtening.

It's up to us, as writers, to decide what to do with them. I've been in that corner, doing the Glen Close light flicking. I'm usually clutching a chocolate bar with the other hand! More often, I've been at my laptop, determined to do better. Determined to SHOW people that I can write. And I think that has made all the difference.

Allowing rejections and harsh remarks stop you gets you no where. Even unwarranted or unkind remarks have to spur you on. Absorb the impact, but keep on moving, with your eye on the prize. Make the decision that one can stop you. And no one will

Anonymous said...

Naima, I have just emerged from my cheese and wine solution to the last critique (ahem you know about it already) I received. And the thing about critiques, constructive or not, is they do force me to rethink the story and where I want to go with it. If more than one person points out the same thing, I figure, hey, they've got a point. Hard to take, and wah wah, I really DON'T want to look at that dang issue AGAIN, but I do.

I just spent some time brainstorming my first two chapters and the seed of doubt the critique planted in my mind grew into a solution to the problem.


So, for me, this works after a critique that's not so glowing-time, distance, wine, friends to whine to, and then BACK IN THE CHAIR, HANDS ON COMPUTER.

One day, I'll be able to show my cardboard box of rejections to another aspiring author. And I'll be the published one.

Keep the dream alive!

Nicole North said...

Naima, WOW what a fantastic and beautiful post!! You made me laugh and you made me misty-eyed. You're a fabulous writer and I'm cheering you on!! You'll be big time published one day!

Carla Swafford said...

Great post as usual, Naima! In a contest loop I'm on, someone repeated this quote - YOUR DREAMS MUST BE BIGGER THAN YOUR FEAR OF REJECTION.

That says it all, don't it?

Naima said...

Hi, Christy!
That's what I've learned--and am still learning. To take the hit and keep moving even if it's at a crawl. Because if I'm moving I'm never standing still or going backward. Bea-u-ti-ful picture, by the way! I can just see it on the back of a bookcover!

Naima said...

That is such a cool quote, Carla! I love it! That pretty much sums it up quite nicely. I'm going to type the quote up and tape it to my computer at home and at work. It'll help keep me focused! Thanks for that!

Christy Reece said...

Thank you, Naima!

Julie J. said...


Wonderful post! I have been rejected more times than I can remember. I have saved them all in a notebook, though, and hopefully one day I will get the chance to go back and say nothing kept me down. My first rejection made my cry as did my second and third. Somewhere along the way, I decided to use the rejection to work harder. This does not mean it doesn't still hurt because it does, but it does not get me down and cause me not to write as it used to do.

Naima said...

Thanks, Nicole!
I appreciate that! Thanks for the inspiration and the reminder!!

Naima said...

Hi, Julie!
I have soooo been there! I'm definitely getting better. Like you said, it still stings, but I believe my skin becomes a little thicker with each one. Maybe one day I'll have a pelt!! LOL!