on listening to yourself

Oof, so it's been awhile. I have all the normal excuses but a big part of it was simply living my life and falling (hard) into writing.

There's something about finding and joining a community of writers that has made my heart so full, it's hard to describe. I've met incredible people who are so giving of their time and of themselves. And as a result, I've become a better person and certainly a better writer. 

I could go on for paragraphs about the writing community and the people I've met but I wanted to talk about something else.

Being a writer isn't a solitary act. To fully reach the pinnacle of your ability, you have to first of all admit that you probably will never reach it. But the goal is to keep trying and to compete against yourself. Always improve. Always work hard. 

Part of improving is getting critiques and having your work read by other writers. I think this is a crucial step to becoming a stronger writer. But sometimes, you have to trust your own gut. Writers have one of the nastiest case of Imposter Syndrome I've ever seen, and if you combine that with an environment of constant critiquing and edits and revisions and that need to improve, it can be a quagmire. So, I've found something to be really important when receiving critiques or helpful suggestions. 

Sleep on it. And then, listen to yourself. If it's a craft thing, definitely consider it. If it's a plot thing or a character thing, take a beat to center yourself. You know the story you're trying to tell better than anyone else.

As Neil Gaiman famously said, “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

I, and some of my dear writing friends, have gotten critiques that ask us a little too much--to remove or add something that feels wrong. But the instinct is to cut, scratch out, rewrite, fix, add immediately. I've seen too many writers take every critique that comes their way and then lose their story. And when the heart is gone, you're just left with a bunch of words that you don't love.

So take a beat. Let out that breath you've been holding and don't assume that THIS will be the key to fixing your manuscript (if you think it needs to be fixed). Let it be a guide though.

I realize this is all pretty vague for first time writers, so I'll follow up with some more details on how you can look at a critique in different ways and let it help spark your own ideas.