Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why It Hurts

There is so much pain involved with being a writer. Harsh critiques, rejections, more rejections, more critiques, more rejections and then you get published. You change critiques to critics and it starts all over again.

Why do we do it? I once heard it said that living with a writer is similar to living with a cutter. They put themselves out there only to be hurt over and over and over again.

But we don't stop. The mark of a good and dedicated writer is that we just keep coming back for more. Ask any published author and they will tell you that one of the most vital tools a writer can have is a thick skin.

In an industry that takes years and years of hard work and dedication for even the possibility of being successful, why would so many of us keep coming back for more?

I can't answer that. I know my own reasons and I hope you know yours because if you don't, you'll figure them out or quit before too long. What I want to discuss is the reason I believe it HAS to be this way.

In any artistic profession, there is a certain amount of talent and a bigger amount of hard work involved. The learning curve in writing is tremendous. There are so many different facets to be aware of all while you craft this entirely new world and people and breathe life into them. In order to learn, you must recognize your areas that need work. If you don't find those weaknesses and improve them, your writing will become stagnant. So, we need those critiques and critics and rejections.

We all need to spend some time in the land of Total Suckdom...a lot of time.

The other part of the equation is the writing itself. You have to love it and pour everything you have into it. You have to make it a part of your identity. Allow this world to take shape in your mind, the people to breathe, love, hate and live in your heart. To create a story that has any chance at being publishable, you must fill it with a piece of yourself and then send it out to be trampled.

This is why it hurts, and this is why it HAS to hurt. If it doesn't hurt to send out your work and have it thoroughly rejected...then you weren't in it enough to begin with. I learned during the querying process to thicken my skin and embrace the pain that comes from knowing I am invested enough to some day be successful.

What do you think? Are you afraid to feel a little pain?

18 comments:

  1. The pain is just part of the process. You use those feelings that threaten to sink you, you remember what disappointment and anger feel like, and you channel it into your work.

    And then you lose yourself in the writing for long enough to forget about everything and everyone, and the pain of rejection you may experience at the end of all of it is worth it. You learned, you grew, you were rejected.

    You channel it into your work and start again.

    Thanks for putting my feelings on the subject into such eloquent words, Jen.

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  2. I mean Jenn. Man, I have been messing up everyone's names lately in an attempt to personalize my comments. #epicfail

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  3. Amen. Well said.

    I do think rejection and criticism gets easier to take after a while. Thank goodness!

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  4. I've never been good with pain, but as the saying goes "no pain - no gain"

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  5. I agree. For any artist there is a certain amount of pain involved but then the triumphs wouldn't mean as much either.

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  6. I try to remind myself that if it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be rewarding.

    Sometimes that works. :)

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  7. Great post! The querying process is definitely pain-inflicting, but it just makes those moments of success that much sweeter.

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  8. So true, Jenn. The thing that comes to mind is when one of my sons was training to be a cage fighter (you know that ghastly ultimate fighting). The guys would raise their hands over their heads while other guys (padded, but still) hit them in the chest, back and sides. It toughened them up. Made it easier to take a hit.

    Writers have to do that, too. Those critiques you mention are just the training ground to make us strong enough to take even bigger punches ... and some of them are low blows.

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  9. ooooweee when I first started submitting things to critique partners, I definitely let it get to me. But once I realized how helpful they were trying to be (and how right most of the comments were) I saw things differently. Sure I still get the occasional harsh feeling critique, but I'm getting better about not getting defensive and taking it personally. My skin is definitely thicker, which I will need when I start querying because I KNOW that's a whole other level.

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  10. I'm a total wiz at taking hard critiques--so long as I can still fix it (if I agree) or dismiss the critiquer as someone who just doesn't "get it" (and it's not my fault), I'm good.

    What will hurt, I think, is getting rejections from people after it's too late. Agents who will never consider representing it again. Publishers who permanently refuse to publish it. Readers who will hate it when it's set-in-stone (if it ever gets that far).

    Yeah, that'll sting.

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  11. Good points Robin. I am a total wuss though. Like bring on the pain meds-kind-of-wuss. I'm not advocating drug use though. I am advocating learning to be stronger.

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  12. Wonderful post! Yep, rejection is always part of the process, and so is criticism. Sure, it hurts, but if it helps me become a better writer, I'm willing to take it. (ouch)

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  13. I try to focus on the joy that comes from making the work a part of myself. I remember how much I love it, and try not to take rejections personally. My love for the story has to be enough, because I can't guarantee anyone else will love it.

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  14. Pain is what makes us grow, and is therefore what makes us keep coming back for me. Things that are stagnant never excite me much. Even though change and pain frightens me, I wouldn't trade any of it for anything...in writing or anything else.

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  15. I haven't had to experience much rejection yet. BUT I know that will change this fall when I go looking for an agent. I will keep lots of chocolate on hand so I'm prepared to cope. That's really all I need, right?

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  16. There's pain, so when we do triumph, the success is so much sweeter.

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  17. Maybe we do it because the pain just makes the success THAT much sweeter. And who doesn't love sweeter?

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  18. I guess we're all gluttens for punishment. But seriously. I think we love the things that we work hardest for. And as the saying goes... Love is something you do. If you truly LOVE writing you keep doing it. There's my deep thoughts for the day. :)

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