Like many others, I’ve been writing since my childhood. My very first project was called “Kathy’s Special Day” and ended with my older brother getting spanked. Yep, that’s what started everything. Inspiring story, right? But after one fateful, failed attempt to write the be all, and end all epic about Pokémon and Digimon, I quit writing for the rest of my childhood. I loved Pokémon, and I loved the little animals in Digimon, so I wanted them to meet each other. So I titled the story “Pokémon meats Digimon”. I went to show my older brothers my masterpiece, and the laughter still hasn’t stopped about it. And it’s been well over ten years. When I eventually started writing again, I never showed anyone, I never told anyone. Anything I wrote was my secret, carefully guarded. It was only up until recently that I got the confidence to share with others again.
So therein lies my point. Writing, no matter how silly the story is, is always, always personal. Like a song, writing captures an idea or an emotion. And you are opening yourself up for all sorts of criticism. Even though I was just a kid making kid mistakes back in my Pokémon days, I don’t think that this has changed. First of all, my second oldest brother is still my biggest critic. And I still take my writing personally.
I think that being able to take comments and criticism is an art just as complicated as writing itself. If you can’t handle what people have to say about your writing, then you probably shouldn’t be publishing. I don’t mean this in an offensive way — there is absolutely nothing wrong with loving your ideas and story to the point where it is wrapped up into your feelings. I think that being emotionally connected to your work makes writing that much more authentic. No, my point is that understanding that there WILL be negative feedback and learning how to handle it is essential in publishing. Not everyone is going to like your work. Maybe a lot of people won’t like your work. Maybe you have a story that fits a niche target audience. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But when that Negative Nancy (or Nick) comes along, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t hide away your work for years and years. Don’t let other people determine the outcome of your goals because of their opinions.
I’m not saying that anyone who doesn’t like your work is wrong and that you should simply ignore them. Unfortunately and fortunately, there is no black and white to writing. There is no correct or wrong opinion. What I think is most important to understand is the difference between HELPFUL but hurtful feedback and HURTFUL for the sake of being hurtful (or trolling) comments. There are some people, especially on the internet, that love to spark fires. Want an example? Read some of the comments on YouTube, or take a little fieldtrip over to 4chan. Watch some Christian Weston Chandler videos about his adventures and take a little look at the comments, or read his wiki. There are trolls everywhere. Sometimes they are funny, and sometimes they go over the line. Just understand that there are some people who could NOT care less about you, your work, your goals, or your writing. They just want to push your buttons. Learn how to spot those people, and your life will be so much easier. Once you recognize who they are, feel free to laugh at their silliness, or simply ignore them. The choice is yours.
However, there are some people that genuinely want to help you. Believe it or not, but there are people that read blogs, or see other opportunities where they emotionally connect and want to give you their two cents. NEVER turn these people away. You never know when you will actually need their help or support. Burning bridges is a very dangerous thing to do for successful publishing. Unless you’re JK Rowling, you need all of the support that you can get. These people mean well. Maybe they had a similar experience, or maybe they read something somewhere that relates to your situation. You don’t have to agree with their opinion, but you can appreciate the meaning behind it. Who knows? Maybe if you mull their advice over, you’ll take away something useful. That’s the great thing about opinions. You can ignore them, acknowledge them, appreciate them, and learn from them. There are so many people on this earth with different experiences, and the internet allows us to communicate this with each other. It can be a great, albeit dangerous, tool. USE IT. But use it wisely, and be prepared.
Want some extra help getting used to negative feedback? Start querying your work to agents. That’ll help you get over it real fast. That’s what I did, and it was probably the best thing I’ve ever done for my work.
Even this post is personal. I’m writing it because I genuinely believe in what I have to say, and I want you all to know about it. Maybe you hate my style, maybe you hate the way I think. And that is OKAY. Hey, at least you read something of mine. I’d rather have a million negative opinions about my writing than have none at all because I kept it to myself. So when my brother scoffs at my plot, protagonist, or title now, I just laugh with him and I move on. And I invite you all to do the same.