It IS Personal

Let’s just say that my wife DREADS the time when I’m waiting for feedback…be it from one of the Muses or a manuscript query. Her fear is for good reason: I’m jumpy, irritable, and an insomniac. And a lot of the writers I know are the same.

I believe writers are inherently some of the most ill prepared people to handle the trials and tribulations of writing. Not only are we sensitive by nature, but writing requires us to fine tune that access to our emotions. We bleed into our work, touching the deepest nerves and spewing our darkest secrets. We toil and sweat and cry (not me, of course, but others do) for months – days – decades over our manuscripts. Finally, we gently send them out into the world to find a critique, an agent, an editor, or a reader.

Then we get those lovely responses that Talia mentioned, which range from generic “subjective business blah-blah-blah” to death threats to helpful editorial letters. And, for me (and you, don’t lie), even the *mostly* positive ones are a slimy loogie spit in the face of my soul.

How are we not supposed to take them personal? How are we supposed to have thick skin? True, it’s a rejection of the work, but that work is us. It’s personal because our art, done right, is personal.

So does that mean we’re just supposed to take all the pain as a hazard of the job? I’d say the answer is YES, but with a condition. Rejections will always hurt, but we should take Talia’s lead and learn from them.

We shouldn’t just write the reviewer off as pissy (unless, of course, they are) or the confused critiquer as too stupid to get it. We need to listen to them. We should assess what/where we could clarify or analyze why someone responds so negatively. When we get a lot of form rejections from a query, take a look at the query or the people who got it. If enough respectable people say, “Great writing, BUT the story just isn’t working,”…maybe it’s time to start fresh. Shoot, even tap into that raw pain the next time a character gets dumped by a girlfriend.

All this is to say, in (my version of) poetic summary:
Steel cannot be forged without the sear of heat.
Diamonds cannot be formed without tons of pressure.
And good writing cannot be created without the pain of rejection. 

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