To me, criticism has always equalled rejection...so 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 In order to increase, in order to elevate from unpublished to published author, I had to adopt an openness and willingness to receive more experienced, objective advice.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.