my addiction...

As I said in an article I wrote some time ago, a famous author once said to me, “you’ll never get published writing like that.”

Of course, what she meant and what I heard were two different things. She meant my habit of following trends rather than writing what I loved. What I heard was, “you’ll never get published. You suck. Your writing sucks.”

So I ranted, I raved, I threw things (all in the privacy of my own home, of course.) And then, once I calmed down, I said, I’ll show her.

Several years later, I sent Tor what I thought was an absolutely brilliant piece of work that no sensible publisher would be able to refuse. Of course, they did–the letter said something along the lines of your style of writing is not suitable for us. I can’t remember the exact wording, because I believe I scrunched that letter up, jumped up and down on it several hundred times, then chucked it away. Why? Because what I read was “Your story sucks, you suck, go away and don’t bother us again. And after I’d calmed down, I became determined to show them just what they’d missed out on.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

It happened again, a year or so later. A crit tore my work to shreds, telling me the heroine was trash, that she couldn’t stand to read about her, that her motivations sucked, and that she would chuck the book away long before finishing. Of course, all I heard was, your heroine sucks, you suck, go away. And away I went to rant and rave in the privacy of my own home (Pete was getting rather used to these events by now). Of course, this time after the whole I’ll show her vent, I actually read back what she’d said. And you know what? While I didn’t agree that the heroine sucked, her motivations sure as hell did. It was a lightbulb moment for me–I finally realised that if I didn’t let my emotions get in the way, I could actually gain something useful out of every comment, no matter how harsh it seemed at the time.

But through all the rants and raves and refusing to see anything but my own cherished words, there was one thing I never did. I never said I quit.

I can’t.

Writing is my addiction. I can’t not do it. I’ve been writing since I was 12, and mostly (in the beginning years) for own pleasure. I’ve been writing for so long I get cranky and unpleasant when I can’t. Sure, I can and do go a few days without writing, but keep me away from the computer for more than that, and you’ll be sorry.

Which is why I can’t understand those who, on the first sign of a harsh word, say they’re quitting. Ranting, raving, throwing things–all those I understand and have done. But letting one, or two, or even a dozen deadly comments turn off the writing bug? That I don’t understand.

As newbies, we all tend to think every story we write is brilliant, that every word on every page is a jewel. If someone has something even remotely unpleasant to say about our babies, we react like fierce mother hens, all ready and willing to defend. And then we go home and rant and rave, or we do the opposite, and think and stew. We writers are good at such things–it’s a solitary life we lead, and any sort of criticism tends to enforce the demons of doubt we all harbor.

But to give up at the first sign of a hurdle? At the first harsh word? Even at my most tender newbie moments, that never, ever occured to me. I might have wondered why I bothered trying to get published, I may have thought I was never going to get anywhere, but never once did I think about giving up writing. I can’t. It’s not only what I do, it’s what I am. I’m a writer. I write, regardless of what people say or think.

Thing is, criticism is a fact of life, and it certainly doesn’t stop even when we get published. Hell, I’ve had some truly trashy comments aimed at my novels from reviewers, but that’s all part of the business. And honestly, there’s no point in jacking up about it, because it is only one person’s opinion. And agents, editors and even critiquers who might say harsh things about your work generally aren’t doing so for the sheer thrill of being nasty. They’re trying to help you. Trying to make you see where you might be going wrong–in their opinion.. And that is one thing all newbies need to remember. It’s only an opinion. Just because it’s an agent, or editor or published author making the comment doesn’t mean the whole rest of the world is going to agree with them.

The other thing newbies need to remember is if you quit, your dream dies with you.

If you quit, you’ll never be able to show them just what you’re capable of.

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