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Young Writers Society
To Share or Not To Share
Wed Dec 24, 2014 12:15 am
Whether to share your work with others or not is a big decision. One one hand, it's good to get feedback because it helps you to improve, but on the other, what we create is personal and harsh criticism leaves a sting if we're not prepared for it.
Writing for the Self
The first part is to write as if nobody is ever going to see it, not even you. Write it and resist the temptation to look back. It's all about the losing yourself in the words and never stopping to judge the quality or quantity. Assume it will never be read, never be published, and never be great.
Your muse is like your inner child- if they sense you're afraid they'll hide away. Worry, stress and inhibition will hinder the creative process. Think of it this way, if you are afraid to write freely then you might as well be kicking your muse in the shin before your journey even begins.
Have you ever been afraid of what grandma would say if she ever got hold of one of your novels? Writing is a chance for you to truly be and express yourself. If you keep thinking about what someone you know would think or what they might think you were thinking when you were thinking about writing this piece then you're going to be constantly suppressing yourself.
Every person is unique, and if you only conform to the restraints and stereotypes of those around you then those restraints will drown that precious quality that makes you unique.
Sharing with others
If you ever want to get published then at some point you're going to have to share your work. Some people find this easy, but for many the very idea of doing so makes their blood run cold. I wouldn't say there's a specific point when you should share your work, but sooner is always better than later.
Start with the work that you've written totally for yourself, as far as content goes it's probably some of your best. It will be riddled with grammar mistakes and inconsistencies that you can figure out, but that unique quality I mentioned in the last section will be there, and that's what matters.
There is a vanity to writing that is an easy pit to fall into, in which we spend hours carefully pondering the sentences to look exactly as we want them to look, and what we end up with is a set of beautiful glass statues with no soul inside them. The benefit of writing for yourself is that your sentimentality comes to lie in the ideas rather than the sentences; in your characters, their flaws and triumphs. They become fluid and malleable without loosing their essence.
Throw a rock at a pond it causes ripples that will smooth over again. Throw a rock at a pretty glass statue and all that will be left is the shards. When you write for yourself you avoid this vanity, and in that you become stronger.
Developing a thick skin
There are healthy and unhealthy ways to develop an resilience to criticism and we could talk for hours on the skills required to fully understand them. Healthy ways will teach you to accept, analyse and improve. There will be a few bruises, but overall you'll become stronger. Unhealthy ways can easily lead to arrogance, doubt and insult.
The most important thing to remember is that criticism of your work is in no way criticism to you or your writing ability. There's nothing personal involved, and that right there is one of the most beautiful things about it. You can be as honest as you want in your work and it's all part of the process of fiction. You can love your own ideas and creations with all your heart and your critics become peers who can help you communicate those ideas.
If you fall into the trap of vanity or try too hard to conform to others then it becomes personal. Your ideas and creations become based on superficial ideas, and when these ideas crumble there's nothing left to protect you from insult, even if it's not intended. When there is substance to your work- when you have something you can truly love about it- then no matter what people say you can carry on improving and carry on loving.
No amount of positive feedback, no publishing contract, no level of fame or mass of royalties will satisfy you. That comes from the process, not the result. Write first for yourself and fall in love with the detail and depth of your work, then you'll be happier and more able to handle whatever comes your way.
Who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe.
— John Milton (Poet)
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