I’m lucky. I have well-read friends who, when asked, are happy to read drafts for me. But what happens, as did last week, when the feedback I receive is negative – really negative! It’s generally put in an email, probably so they don’t have to look at the sight of me breaking from the inside out. I’ll read it really quickly, scanning for the jist of their thoughts, the negative words and phrases leaping out, “I just don’t get it.” “So what?” “Needs more jeopardy.” Then I’ll shut down the email and hide from it, like that will stop the hurt. I’ll breathe and try to distract myself with something else until I’m brave enough to read it again – that is usually at least twenty-fours hours or more. This time I’m ready, ‘forewarned is forearmed’ and I open up the email and I read it – slowly this time taking time to absorb each point, because this person has taken the time to read it and write down their thoughts and opinions and they are my potential reader – I have to listen to them. It’s important, they’ve done me a favour, though it might not feel like it.
And the thing is, when I allow my writerly defenses to drop, they’re usually right. They’re simply highlighting a weakness that I don’t want to face, they’re making me try harder, dig deeper; they’re making me into a better writer!
Over on http://www.thewritepractice.com there is a great post ‘What to Do When You Run Out Of Creative Steam’ that states the importance of allowing yourself to write badly. This is not the final draft of my novel – far from it- it’s only about the 3rd. I have many more drafts to go to make it better, and my reader friend is helping me get there. What use would it be if everyone loved it, if everyone kept telling me it was wonderful? None. Like many things in life it’s how you deal with the knock-backs that are important. It’s ok to feel bruised, it’s ok to to take time to come to terms with it, but then you must man-up, knuckle down, (insert your own euphemism here) but do whatever it takes to go back and finish the job to the best of your ability. It’s at times like these that I must hold my nerve, believe in my story AND my ability to tell it!