Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Challenging Your Ego

It takes toughness to get involved in the business of writing.  You're putting your work out there for others to see and critique, and no matter how much we smile and say we can shrug it off, critiques hurt.  Someone telling us about our flaws makes us naturally defensive, with the tendency being to pout about how mean that person is, even if we asked for the critique and it was given in the right spirit.

However, critiques are necessary.  No one, no matter how experienced or lauded, gets it right all the time.  Very few get it right at all on the first try.  We need these critiques to hone our craft and become better writers.  Still, few of us take them well.  Why?

Mostly because we have egos of crystal.  We're so convinced of our superiority in writing that we scoff at the notion that anyone else could tell us what to fix.  There's some benefit in this ego since a good writer writes with confidence.  Unfortunately, it can also make us bristle when someone brings up a legitimate point.

It's this tendency that makes some of us clam up.  Like that gawky teenage boy who is so afraid of getting told no that he never asks anyone out, some of us refuse to share our writing with others.  I've been to a few critique groups where many are willing, even eager, to say what needs work on someone else's writing, but they clam up and stare at the floor when asked who else has brought something for the group.  Some get so afraid that they'll find all kinds of excuses to not let others in - "It still needs work;" "The people here don't 'get' my style;" "I need more time before it's ready for a reading."

This hurts us as writers, for it covers our weaknesses and doesn't let us work to fix them.  Only the rarest, most objective among us can honestly evaluate his or her work, and I'd say that even then it happens properly less than 50% of the time.  That's why we need others.

You can shield yourself by knowing that taste is subjective.  Ten different people will read your story ten different ways.  What one person says can be dismissed; where you need to listen is when four of those ten are making basically the same point.  Also, we all know when someone hits a point we should've seen, so be willing to take that point to heart rather than get upset that it was pointed out.

Yes, there are some mean people out there, even in critique groups, but these folks are easily spotted and written off.  Learn to discern between those trying to help and those looking to assuage their own bruised egos.  Once you can break through that barrier, you'll get better.  After all, won't that help you sell more in the end?

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