Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Moving Past the Negative

Why are we so willing to believe the negative and forget about the positive?  We could receive a dozen positive reviews about our writing, but it just takes one negative comment for us to break down and cry or to begin doubting our ability to write.  

So how do we overcome these bumps in our confidence?  Here are a few tips (trust me, I have to remind myself of these on a daily basis):

1. Writing is subjective.  There will never be a manuscript that 100% of people will love unconditionally.  We all bring our own experience (background knowledge) into what we read.  I may like someone's plot because I connect with it, but someone else may hate it because it seems ridiculous.  Don't even get me started with characters (just think Team Jacob vs. Team Edward).  So it's unrealistic to think that everyone who reads my manuscript will like it (as much as I wish it were possible).  We can't get upset when someone has different taste than ours.  

Similarly, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses as writers.  Sometimes we're more attune to our weaknesses and tend to look for them in our critique partner's writing (maybe because it's at the forefront of our minds when we write).  Make sure to take the time to focus on your strengths too.

2. We don't have to give in to every criticism.  Just because someone thinks you've done something wrong doesn't mean that you have to change what you've written.  As the writer, you ultimately get to decide what your manuscript looks like.  If a suggestion makes you feel uncomfortable, don't change it.  This even applies to suggestions made by agents and editors.  Of course, you run the risk of losing them as agents or editors, but you shouldn't let anyone force you to make changes that you don't want to make.

3. Don't give up!  Most writers, at one point or another, have allowed their self-doubt to creep in and make them wonder whether or not they should continue writing.  Maybe you gave up a job to become a full-time writer.  Maybe you're sacrificing a couple hours of sleep each night.  Maybe you've spent oodles of money on a writing workshop or retreat.  Don't let one negative comment derail you from your purpose.  Instead, take a step back and use it as a learning experience.  How can you use it to improve your writing?  

What other tips do you have to add?  What do you do to get past the negative?

17 comments:

Carole Anne Carr said...

Just remember you are not the negative or the positive feeling, that is you ego talking. Learn to look at it, listen to what it saying and then just let it go.

Palindrome said...

I do always keep in mind that writing is subjective. I've dealt with a ton of rejections in my day so I'm sorta used to it. It's the compliments that are weird.

But when someone doesn't like something about me or my writing, I always think, "I don't like black olives." That's nothing against the olives, it's just a matter of taste.

Matthew Rush said...

Great advice, thanks Amy Jo.

Tara said...

Great advice. I really agree with #1. Being a published author means that you're putting your work out there for the public to have an opinion on. Some reviews of books I've read are harsh, and it's made me think what I would feel like if I was published and read a review like that about my novel.

I know that it would probably bother me to read it, but that eventually I'd learn to let the negative reviews roll off my back. Most people don't have malicious intent when they write a negative review, they just want to have their opinion heard. I guess ultimately I'll consider myself lucky if I get the chance TO have negative reviews!

Cheree said...

Great advice. I believe with "writing being subjective", not everyone's going to like it.

What about: "We learn best from our mistakes"

MT said...

Good tips Amy. I've gotten nasty feedback before. I pay a lot of attention to negative feedback when it is given respectfully. If given harshly or insultingly, I find it hard to trust the opinion of the giver. Then I dismiss their input - unless I can see some truth to it. If they're right, they're still mean. I'd rather be right AND nice, wouldn't you?

Shelley Sly said...

Thank you for this post, Amy. I have a tendency to view all my criticisms as objective -- I always figure that they're right and I have to fix everything. It's always annoyed me when other writers *refuse* to make changes when given constructive criticism, so I guess I bent the other way and just gave in to everyone's advice. But it's nice to keep in mind that opinions are opinions.

I needed this reminder, thanks!

Sandy Shin said...

These reminders definitely make pause and think. It's so easy to give into the negatives and let them consume you. Great tips in trying to remember the positives, what matter!

Crystal Cook said...

Thanks so much for these! I need to remind myself of this a lot!!

Natalie said...

This is all good advice. I have a friend who is really struggling with this right now. I keep reminding her that it is all subjective.

Cynthia Reese said...

Oh, my. Pubbed authors have to get used to the feeling ... after all, nothing makes you lose the "I'm all that" feeling quicker than your editor sending you an encylopedic revision letter -- of the book that you'd already revised and revised and revised.

My biggest help: consider the source of the criticism, and whether it's constructive or destructive.

Good post!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Talk it out with a friend. Write something new. Read possitive comments. Pick yourself up and start all over again.

Elana Johnson said...

This is such a hard thing to do. I think the thing that helps me the most is my confidence. If I don't like what someone's saying, I believe in myself enough to stick with what I've got. This works in a lot of situations, actually.

Believe in yourself.

Lisa and Laura said...

Great advice both in the post and in the comments! I think it's important to really take a step back and absorb what people are saying about your work. Oftentimes even if you don't agree with the criticism at first there's a grain of truth that you can use to improve your work.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Don't forget Lilah's LAST LINES BLOGFEST. I had to post early due to work. Come on down and check it out, Roland

Mary said...

This is SO right on.

Sometimes I get three reviews telling me to go in completely different directions. And then I say, well this is the range of how people will see this scene/passage. And it's okay. If I want to change something at that point I do. Sometimes I don't.

At the end of the day, you've got to just go with your gut instincts.

Thanks for this post!

J. Kaye said...

Re: Writing is subjective.

Amen! Book blogging for three years taught me that. I could love a book and a friend hate the very same book. If it wasn't for that experience, I'd crumble under criticism. Now I am better at viewing what is being said, sometimes I see what they are seeing. Other times, I don't agree.