A little while back, my friend Hugh, from the blog Hugh’s Views and News, asked me if I’d like to write a guest post for his new “Ladies & Gentlemen, meet…” feature. I was honored by his request and happily accepted his invitation.
Below, you’ll find my guest post. Hugh encouraged me to write about whatever I wanted (my blog, my writing, my life). I decided to delve into a topic that has been bothering me for months. Hopefully you’ll be able to take something away from it!
Thank you, Hugh, for including me in your new feature and spurring me to share my thoughts on this matter. I encourage everyone to visit his blog. It’s one of my favorites!
Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, I like to say, “I work in the Industry of Rejection.”
Let’s face it. Being a writer–especially one with lofty aspirations of making the New York Times Bestseller list–is tough. Not only do you willingly open yourself up to a world of cynics, naysayers, and Debbie Downers, but you get so used to hearing the word “No”, you forget the meaning of “Yes”.
But, that’s what we all dream of hearing, isn’t it? “Yes”? Yes from an agent. Yes from a publisher. Yes from readers! That’s why we put up with “the Industry of Rejection”. We all hope to one day achieve our goals. To receive “the call” from a literary agent. To walk past a stranger reading our book. To host a book signing. To receive another call about our next book being published…
The “dream list” goes on and on. And, some days, that’s all that gets me through the business’s negative muck and mire.
But, there’s something else–something more tangible than hopes and dreams–that pulls me through the “No, no, no!” sludge:
Up until the fall of 2013, I only interacted with two other writers…Yep, that’s it. Two! Then I created my blog, hopped on Twitter, and entered an NYC Midnight writing challenge–and boom! My writing world blew up. Suddenly, I had dozens of writing pals from around the world, all of them positive, supportive, and helpful. I went from working alone and feeling alone, to being embraced by those swimming through the same Negative Ocean as me.
Honestly, I don’t know how I survived so long without those lifesavers to keep me afloat.
Yet, throughout the past two years, I’ve encountered other types of writers, ones who haven’t been so positive, supportive, or helpful. In fact, they’ve been the complete opposite.
“I don’t know why so many people like your story. It sucks.”
Just because you don’t like a story doesn’t mean you have to bash it to pieces. Find ways to tactfully explain why a story doesn’t work for you. Is it the plot? The characters? Perhaps the writing itself needs work? Whatever the problem, be specific and help writers improve their work. Don’t demean it. That doesn’t help anyone. Plus, it makes you look like a jerk (or worse).
The One Upper
“Who cares if you optioned your story to a Hollywood production company? I’ve self-published five novels and I just got an agent to help me publish my sixth!”
Well, bully for you! And thank you for congratulating me on my hard-earned success…Sheesh! As competitive as we can be, there’s no need to try and outshine each other. When another writer tells you their success story, stifle your “Oh, yeah?” impulse and celebrate with them.
And, trust me, you’ll get a chance to talk about yourself in the future. For now, rejoice with the other writer and remember: “Yes!” is a rare word in this industry. Let a writer revel in it when it happens.
“You have to outline before you start writing. It’s the right way–the only way!”
News alert: There’s no right way to write. Sure, there’s basic grammar and whatnot, but the rest of it? All up to the individual writer. So don’t judge others for their methods of madness. If something works, then it works…And if something doesn’t, well, the writer will likely ask you for advice.
The Eye for an Eye-r
“You didn’t like my story? Oh, well. Whatever. I didn’t like yours either. In fact, I connected with it so little, I gave up after the first page.”
There are hundreds of ways to handle criticism: Venting in private. Crying in your car. Stuffing your face with Peanut M&M’s…But there’s one definite way you should not handle it: Rejecting the feedback and attacking the writer who wrote it.
Not only does retaliation make you look classless and immature, but it also alienates you from other writers. I mean, who wants to work with a writer who’ll blow up every time they receive constructive criticism? No, thanks.
My advice? If you can’t stomach responding with a polite, “Thank you for your honest opinion”, then don’t respond at all.
Every time I encounter one of the writers listed above, I’m torn between sadness and fury. I just don’t get it. We already have to put up with so much negativity from the rest of the industry. Why should we add to the burden by being negative with each other? By stomping and pushing and crushing each other? This isn’t The Hunger Games!
This is our hopes and dreams. Although we might be going to war on the same battlefield, our fight isn’t with each other. It’s with fulfilling our personal goals.
So, the next time you interact with another writer, I encourage you to be positive, supportive, and helpful. If they pen a great story, applaud them.If they announce they’ve received a book deal, celebrate with them. If they explain their unique writing process, listen and keep an open mind–maybe even try one of their methods to see if it works for you? And if they give you constructive criticism, accept it with grace.
Whatever you do, don’t be a writer who knocks other writers down. It will only make you look bad…And it will, obviously, make others feel bad.
If anything, remember this: Nobody can understand you like another writer can. The highs and lows. The hours–weeks–years of hard work. The fears and doubts. The hopes and dreams. So, don’t alienate yourself by being “The Basher”, “The One Upper”, “The Righter”, or “The Eye for an Eye-r”. Be positive, supportive, and helpful! If you do that, then you’ll have a much better chance of surviving the Industry of Rejection.
We all will.