Monday, November 2, 2009

To Each Their Own

A few days ago (October 29th to be exact), I was doing my usual morning routine of catching up on my blog reading (down to 62 blogs and one e-zine) when I came across a fascinating post by Globalwrite on her blog called Rule of Three about self doubt. It was mostly about managing self doubt and not letting it ruin your writing and/or running your life.

I left a thoughtful comment, part of which said "That if my self doubt says my writing isn't good enough, I think about my blog and the visitors that I receive. Surely someone thinks my writing is good because they come back time and again to read what I post. I also think about that one story that impressed a publisher enough to take a chance on. No matter what, I still write. Either on the computer or by hand, as long as I'm putting words to paper/screen, there isn't nothing that can stop me."

Later that day, I ran into one of my favorite authors at work, who happened to be there that day as a vendor, selling her book along with arts & crafts with her friend. I asked her if she got my check and my book (which I sent along as a courtesy) and if she got a chance to read it. She said yes, and yes, she did get a chance to read it. She also gave me her opinion on it, of which she said that it really didn't appeal to her, which was as diplomatic as one can get when you're trying not to say something completely negative about a book but wanting to stay neutral about something that isn't your particular cup of tea.

I was about to thank her for it, when her friend pulled me over and gave me her unvarnished opinion of it. One of the sure fire ways of knowing that you're about to get hammered over something you wrote, is when an opinion starts off with "I'm no prude but...."

Well my friends, I got hammered by this person (who I do actually like), who told me in no uncertain terms what she thought of the book. After she got done offering her opinion about it, I said that I was sorry that you didn't like it. I also said a few other polite things about her opinion, then thanked her for it, and went to work. I also spent the day basically not hanging out there, like I usually do when this vendor comes by for a visit, simply because I'm such a hothead about criticism that I do have a tendency to shoot my mouth off.

I do want to say that the criticism from this person, is much different than the criticism from the jerk in the chat room. The criticism that she gave was sincere and heartfelt (not to mention that it hurt like hell), while the criticism from the jerk in the chat room is simply petty, has nothing to do with the first book anymore, and had become downright personal for the past month or so.

Here, self doubt immediately came into play as I spent the rest of the morning thinking about what she said about the book. I also spent part of the afternoon thinking about what she said and to a lesser degree, about my chosen genre. Now I will say that what she said did bother me to the point that I had to modify my plans for the afternoon. I'd planned on spending the afternoon at the library working on my other W.i.P (of which you'd read this excerpt of about three weeks ago), but after I got everything all set up, I proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes staring at a partially blank piece of paper trying to decided what I was going to write.

Frustrated over my lack of output, which was a direct result of what I heard this morning about my book (which I did warn the author that I toned down the sex and violence from the first book, so it wasn't like she was going to read it cold), I wound up making a trek to the mountain, where I was finally able to get a grip on my self doubt, and wrote a couple of pages of text.

Lesson learned was this: while I may be plagued with self doubt about my writing from time to time, letting it bother me to the point of paralysis is ultimately in the end, self destructive.


  1. We've all been there, that's for sure. The occasional self-doubt is just another mountain we have to climb, get past, and put behind us. But getting up that terrain can be tricky, keeping our footing, not getting lost. In the long run, we're stronger for it, and some part of our writing carries the energy of doing so.

  2. Criticism always hurts. And once the sting wears off and you review it carefully, you find the little kernels of goodness that help you become a better writer. Sometimes, though, there are no kernels of goodness and it's okay to come away with the knowledge that not everyone will like what you put on paper. And that hurts, too.

  3. Unduly harsh critics will always be around but I doubt they are happy people or even know what true happiness is, which you obviously do, G, because you continue to go for your dream. And I'm sure you'll never stop because writing is such a big part of who you are.

    So fie on the harsh ones! They go home to empty apartments at night to eat rotten potatoes, and wake after nightmares looking like hell.

  4. It's tough to recover from criticism of one's creative work, whatever that may be. I admire your courage in getting a grip on yourself so soon after on the onslaught, and getting back to your craft.

  5. Joanne: It certainly indeed was rocky terrain that day. I mean, I've gotten criticism about my writing before (constructive and/or petty), but nothing like this. This was something that left me in a bind for most of the day.

    Talon: So very true. It will be tough to find some kernal of goodness that I can use to improve my writing, because most of the criticism was directed at the actual content, as opposed to the mechanics.

    Jannie: Thanks. It was bit difficult to listen to it at the time and even more difficult not to react to it the way I would of liked to.

    And no, I won't ever stop writing. I am what I am, and that's what makes so different.

    Sparkling Red: Thanks. The hardest part was not letting it completely ruin my day. While I may have developed a stronger skin about my writing, I still have a long way to go before I can take such criticism without taking it completely to heart.

  6. Criticism from a source you can trust is priceless. But it also hurts like a bitch. I always run my stories pass my wife first and then, quite often Elaine or a writer I trust from the genre I'm submitting in. The result is I publish less but what I do put out there is better.

    But, back to the point: criticism is never easy to swallow.

  7. I've been there - I have a children's book I've been trying to shop around. Perhaps two dozen people in my family/friend/colleague circle have read it and claimed to really enjoy it - then one of the only published authors I know, who is also a friend whose writing I respect, absolutely hated it! I was pretty unhappy and then my husband reminded me: "Is A your target audience?" Um, no. He is a 60-year-old, non-parent who never reads children's books. Hmm.
    So the point is - there is always someone out there who isn't interested in our stuff. That doesn't mean it's no good.

    G, I am picky. If you sucked I wouldn't read your stuff.

    I also think so called "criticism" is really about ego in some cases. It wasn't her cup of tea; she should have left it at that, instead of trying to convince you to reinvent the wheel.

    There, speech over!

  8. David: I've gotten criticism (both good and bad) from people I've known before, and yes, you're right it's never easy to swallow.

    I guess what bothered me the most that it was just so pointed, which I think was due to the fact that was probably reading more into the story than what I intended it to be.

    I don't try to write in a vacuum (if I did, I wouldn't have stuck that other blog out there), so at least on that aspect, I'm making some headway about having contact with people and their tastes.

    Still, it's a never ending learning experience.

    R.K: I didn't think your comment was a speech, but a very excellent example of how you handled criticism from someone you trust.

    Granted, it's tough to find a target audience for a book, and I think even more so for a children's book.

    I know you can't and won't please everyone, but in the end, if you can please just your slice of the world (no matter how big that slice is), then isn't that all that really matters in the long run?

    And thanks, I'm glad you think my writing doesn't suck. It's been an uphill battle to improve my writing each and every day, and so long as I have at least one other person who likes it, I'm gonna keep on doing it.

  9. It is interesting. I have done some cartoons that people have taken completely in a different way then I intended. It becomes one of those optical illusions that once you see the image one way, it is difficult to see it another.

    Can't say it doesn't bother me but then again I tend to get more views and discussion on controversial stuff than stuff people all like.

  10. Criticism hurts like hell. We've all been there G.

    I think we can learn from it, but it's never easy to accept.

    But what pleases one person, can repulse another. I can walk into a shop and get some teenage girl telling me how cute I look, then walk about the shop and get another one laughing out loud about me to her boyfriend.

    Anything good and diffrent will always be polorizing.

  11. Bearman: I think cartooning (at least the type that you do) is one of the few jobs that is impervious to criticism.

    Criticism of your work usually equates with controversy. Controversy in your line of work is a good thing. Sometimes controversy in my secondary line of work is bad thing.

    Joe: I'm hoping to learn something from it. What that something might be is yet to be determined.

    I've gotten used to being different and polorizing at the same time (chat rooms for the most part), but this was something that will take a little getting used to. I'm sure in the long run, it will help me become a better writer, but for now, yeah, it still stings.

    Even more fun will be next week when the same vendor will be coming back to sell their wares at work.

    Hopefully I'll be in a better frame of mind by then.

  12. Criticism can be biting. You're right to throw that bit of self doubt in your backpack and keep plugging along up that writer's mountain. I try to turn that doubt into a kind of fuel to make me write more and more and more. I'll work the doubt out of me one way or another.

  13. SORRY about the broken links to those "fabulous hats" on my current post -- I have fixed them!

    technikile diffikultees -- blame blue bunny!


  14. Oh my George, everything that everybody said in their comments is great. When people we respect and care about don't like what we have to say it does hurt. If they like us how can they not like what we have to say? That of course doesn't really make any sense but seldom do our emotions or reactions.
    There are types of stories that I am not interested in reading. It's not they are aren't well written or good it's just not what I enjoy reading about.
    I'm sure my writing bores a number of people but like you said, enough people stop by your blog on a regular basis so they enjoy reading something you have written. Well, from what I have learned about you, you will brush this off and get back to work. :)Bea

  15. Kelly: I definitely try to keep plugging away with my writing, no matter what problems I face along the way.

    As a former supervisor was fond of saying, "It's never simple!"

    Jannie: I did not know there was any broken links in your last post. I will check them out posthaste.

    'Tis another flaw that I have, which is clicking on links. I have to keep remembering that my good friends post nothing but 100% genuine links on their blogs, and that they are safe as all get out.

    Blame blue bunny? Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

    Bea: Thanks.

    I feel the same way about certain stories as well. If I don't like something because it's something I don't normally read, I'll politely say so.

    No matter what I read though, I always try to find something positive to say about it. If I can't, I don't.

  16. PS To clarify, your writing is much better than "doesn't suck!" Can you tell I've been a bit tired?

  17. Thanks for the clarification.

    We've all had those kind of days of being wickedly tired and trying to sound coherent at the same time.

  18. I'm curious. How long did this woman go on? And what was it you would have liked to say? Did she actually specify passages in the book or was she more general? I only ask because of what I've seen on in the chat rooms and you've indicated that this was so much worse.


  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Folks, in case you're wonderig about that deleted comment, that was me. I left an answer for the previous poster that had absolutely nothing to do with her question, so I nuked it.

    Here is the proper response to her comment.

    Maxie: She was more general about the content. She didn't like the content of the first one (sex/violence) and the second one was much like the first.

    What I would of liked to say is unprintable at this juncture, but it would probably be in the same vein as some of my chat room posts that you've seen from me.

    The reason I felt this was worse than the abuse I've been getting in the chat rooms, was because it came from someone who I've come to know and like in the past year and a half. Her's was heartfelt and sincere, and that's what hurted me the most.

  21. I feel like I was being nosy, but I did notice that you were taking this harder than the chat room foolishness. I envisioned someone who enjoys cutting people down and enjoys it more in person. To say you don't like something is one thing. To get detailed and tick off hundreds of reasons on your fingers is another!

  22. Anon: Thanks for stopping by. I'm sure that you know me from the chat rooms, thus the reasoning for stopping by.

    And no, you weren't being nosy. Whereas the chat room foolishness for the most is just that, this was a bit more personal, simply because it was from someone who I had gotten to know on a personal level in the past year and a half, and thus it hurt a lot more.

    It's just hard to accept criticism from people who to a certain degree, you respect.

  23. When faced with hot-fired criticism, I just remind myself that no two folks like the same music, n that goes for artwork, n writing as well. Some folks just do not understand the work.

    Unkind remarks n actions by tactless people do bother me for awhile after incidents such as this- It can take a day or two for me to be able to file it away where I'm not reacting to it.

    I'm glad you were able to keep functioning after a few hours- good for you!

  24. btw, Think I'd find something to criticise about her friend's book to discuss the next round...

  25. I wound up having a very long talk with both the author and her friend this past week (she was here on the 9th), and we cleared the air on a multitude of things. I was able to explain my p.o.v. a little bit better, and she was able to bring up a few salient points about her writings (her books feature a loving gay couple). I also talked to her friend, and she apologized for what she said and elaborated on why she said what she said, and I again elaborated on a few more things about myself and my writing.

    While things may not be hunky dory, at least everyone knows where everyone else stands.

    I would love to find something to criticize about the author's books, but besides the stray typos here and there, for the most part her books are a very good read. I have a book review coming up sometime next month that will elaborate a little further on her writings.


Go on, give me your best shot. I can take it. If I couldn't, I wouldn't have created this wonderful little blog that you decided to grace with your presence today.

About that comment moderation thingy: While yes, it does say up above I can take it, I only use it to prevent the occasional miscreant from leaving thoughtless and/or clueless comments.

So remember, all of your comments are greatly appreciated and all answers will be given that personal touch that you come to expect and enjoy.

G. B. Miller

The Legal Disclaimer

All the content that you see here, except for the posting of links that refer to other off-blog stories, is (c) 2008-17 by G.B. Miller. Nothing in whole or in part may be used without the express written permission of myself. If you wish to use any part of what you see here, please contact me at