Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Way We Are: You can handle it

Okay, so there was that moment when you first got the SPARK to be a writer.

And then there was that moment when you decided what you were going to DO with that spark. Where you were going to work to have it take you. You might have decided that you only want your posterity to read what you write. Or maybe you decided you want as big of an audience as you could get through Indie publishing. Or through a regional press. Or through a traditional publisher. Maybe you want everyone in the world to read what you write!

And let's face it. If you are going to have people read your stuff, it takes guts. So... my question this week is:

When did you realize that you had the guts to handle being a writer?

For me, it was realizing I could handle the critiques that came with being a writer. It happened about 3 1/2 years ago. I took a college creative writing class from a teacher who, quite frankly, scared me. I had only been writing for a few months, and was still about six months from meeting my writing group. My teacher announced that we were going to do in-class critiques, and we were going to start with me. My very first critique. I showed up with copies of my story for everyone the next class, the teacher passed them out, and then the class went silent as everyone read.

I sat at the back of the classroom, watching everyone read what I wrote. I didn't have butterflies in my stomach-- I had them flapping around my heart. The excitement built and built in my chest until I tingled everywhere from the thrill of people reading my stuff. Something I created. By the time they finished reading and drew that last breath before giving me their critiques, there was no nervousness-- only intense anticipation that I hungered for like nothing else. I knew then that I wouldn't ever cringe from a critique-- I'd crave it. I left that class knowing that I could take any critique I got thrown at me.

So there's mine. Now let's hear yours!

What was the moment that told you that you could handle it? (Or the moment that let you know you could at least handle a part of it.) Was it when you first made a blog and put your thoughts out there for strangers to read? When you figured out how to reorganize your life to fit writing in? When you stared at books in a bookstore and knew that you'd handle whatever came your way whenever to get yours there, too? When you realized you could reach "the end" in the novel you started? When you realized you had more than one book idea in you?

We want to hear about it!


Anonymous said...

As far as when I started writing, I was making "picture books" as early as 3rd grade. Maybe before then.

As far as being able to "handle" it, I'm not sure if I do that well.

Cristina said...

I don't know about a specific moment.. but I have shown my work to my husband, and a couple of friends, no real critiques until this past week, where I posted the first 2 chapters on my WIP over at CritiqueCircle, and when I read the first critique..... OUUUUCH!!

wow... now I know why they say, you need to have people look at your work.

The critique was spot on, definitely pointed things that I wasn't seeing.. but ouch! LOL

but it's okay, I'll let that feeling settle down, and then it's off to work on improvements.

deep breath :)

Tonja said...

I participated in a public reading. The crowd laughed out loud. I try to remember that moment whenever I'm worried about a critique.

I have learned so much from critiques from my writing group over the last year. It's worth it to suck it up and hear the negatives if it makes your writing better.

Maggie said...

I guess after my book was out there long enough and I started getting reviews from people I didn't know. That was the moment--knowing it was in the hands of complete strangers. And them liking it or not liking it meant so much to me.

i'm erin. said...

I can't say. I guess it was about the same time as you. Maybe not...Maybe I'm still struggling with it. Ugh. I don't know. Why are you asking me these questions? Tormentor. I need to go shower now.

Denise Baer said...

I look up to you because I didn’t think anyone would anticipate critiques.

When did I realize I have the guts to be a writer? I haven’t. I have a book coming out in December and I’m scared as all heck knowing criticism and poor reviews will follow. I still wonder if I should cancel the whole thing and just have my book printed and buried with me.

Have a nice day, Peggy.

Abby Fowers said...

I only "came out" as a write this summer. I love to write though, but deciding to share my work with a more "knowledgeable" group of people was scary. I just decided I would have to take the advice and criticism if I wanted to improve. So far - I love everything I learn and I love improving.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I think when I realized I craved that feedback too - not so much in the critique form, because the first feedback I got was from readers who just liked what I had posted. I was terrified to let other people see it, then completely entranced with the idea of readers. I've been hooked ever since. :)

Kristine said...

I haven't yet!

Stacy Henrie said...

I think it was joining my critique group 3 1/2 years ago and having fellow writers read my stuff.

Angela Cothran said...

For me I realized I had the guts, the first time I let anyone and everyone who wanted to read it. I figure if I want published I should be willing to let people read my work. Seems like a no brainer :)

Patti said...

I think my bravery ebbs and flows. But I do know what you mean about critiquing. Now I find myself disappointed if I don't get a lot of feedback on what I can improve.

Talli Roland said...

Hm.. that's a good question. I think when I quit my job to write full-time. That was a make it or break it moment!

Jenny S. Morris said...

What you explained sounds like my worst nightmare.

I think I had 2 moments. The first time my friend said she really thought I could do this thing called writing. Second, when my blog actually started getting people listening to what I had to say. I know it's not my actual writing. But, it was still that moment.

Emily R. King said...

Critiques are tough, but in the end I take what I know is true and leave what isn't. The trick is staying true to my initial spark and not getting caught up in pleasing people. That makes me a writer.

Jessie Humphries said...

I am still figuring out if I am brave enough. It is still somewhat of a secret hobby for me, as I only have strangers read my stuff. I have two good beta readers at work, but family and close friends are totally off limits for me.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

The moment my first story interrupted my life was five years ago in September. My grandmother had just passed away. I was walking on the treadmill and watching the news mindlessly. The story came to me and I got off the treadmill and wrote it. It's changed a lot over the years, but hopefully now it is market ready. :)

Faith E. Hough said...

I was homeschooled, but we used a curriculum in which a group of teachers would grade everything after you sent it in. And they were red-pen-CRAZY. So I got over my fear/annoyance/frustration with critiques when I was 9 and my first book report got torn to pieces. :) Haven't had a problem since, though!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Joshua-- Hahaha! You probably do it better than you even realize you do!

Cristina-- The first critique is the hardest, definitely, because you DIDN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT, for heaven's sake! But wasn't it kind of thrilling, too? I think it's the greatest thing in the world to KNOW what to change to make your book rock even more than it was.

Tonja-- Harsh! That must've been awful! I love that it gets you through critiques now, though.

Maggie-- Ahh. Being read by strangers. Definitely an important thing to be able to handle. Love it!

Erin-- It wasn't the class we took together. It was the one that made me want the one we took together SO MUCH MORE. Remember the scary teacher that made me cry? That's who I'm talking about.

Bea-- Wait. What? Some people don't love critiques?! No, really, I get it. Don't call it all off! Just force yourself to turn a blind eye. Tell yourself that every single word that's written or uttered about your book is nothing but fabulous praise. It makes it all better. No, seriously. Do that.

Abby-- It IS scary! And so very awesome. It's so great to improve yourself and your ms!

Susan-- Ooo. Very good one. Craving readers. Love it.

Kristine-- Hahaha! Even with all the email critiques I've sent your way? :)

Stacy-- Good one!

Angela-- EXCELLENT thing to figure. And so important!

Patti-- I totally get that. Every bit of it.

Talli-- Ahh! Great one! Definitely one of those incredibly huge moments!

Jenny-- Then I'm so glad you weren't there. :) I love your moments! Those are some great ones.

E.R.-- Finding what to use and staying true to your initial spark are fabulous ones! I love that!

Jessie-- You wrote an incredibly brave book. If you had the guts to write that, you have the guts to be a writer. Own it.

Sharon-- Wow! That's incredible!

Faith-- Wow. That's really... awesome, actually. I mean I'm sure it was awful at age nine, but to gain that much that early-- incredible!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I can't think of one moment. I know I visited bookstores a lot and I wanted one of my books to be amongst them. Not just a want, but a powerful desire. Then I also had that craving for critiques because I wanted to improve. It's a great feeling, isn't it.

M Pax said...

I think I always had the guts.

Recently, I felt I was ready to take the leap. So, I did.

It does take a lot of guts, but I think it's worth it.

Iain said...

Whenever I wrote anything, I always wanted people to read it. I think I was so naive that I didn't even consider that people wouldn't like it.
The first critique I had upset me for about a week, and then I just carried on :o)

Kristen Pelfrey said...

I figured that if I could handle the constant feedback of my high school students that I could handle critique groups. I was right.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I'm not sure I have reached that point yet. But, given that I want to become an ever better writer and crafter of tales, I know I have to muster the bravery to face the critiques, the reviews, the opinions, etc. They are part of the process of writing, growing as a writer, and publishing.

Romance Reader said...

I'm not ready yet! Maybe soon...

Janet Johnson said...

Great question! For me, I think it was when I realized that I enjoyed writing stories, and that I was doing on my own in all my spare time anyway.

Carrie Butler said...

Hmm, probably after I admitted my writing plans to friends and family. Talk about mixed reactions...

Angela Brown said...

I think one critique had an unexpected impact on me. It was an online site and the person who did the critique didn't provide any feedback, just bad mouthed how I was writing a fantasy and everyone was trying to be the next JK Rowling. It pissed me off at first but I calmed down. I read it again and it dawned on me that he hadn't had a bad word to say about my actual writing. So after some discussions with my writing group, I knew I wanted to go for it even more. I wanted to become the best writer I could be...not to become the next anyone...just me and hopefully write something that readers can and will enjoy.

Anonymous said...

The earliest moment I remember was when I was in early primary school writing songs and then standing on our balcony and singing them to the street.. yep I had not shyness about me back then:)

Kelley Lynn said...

Hmmm... I think my moment was when I typed a hypothetical 'the end' after my first manuscript which had taken me two years to write and I had done purely for fun.

Then I thought... lets read this and see if I don't puke.

And I read it. And while during some parts I wanted to puke. There were a number of parts where I thought, 'I'm not too shabby at this'.

So I decided that I was going to be published someday.

Hopefully that actually comes true :)

Karen said...

The second time I read for my writers' group. The first time was awkward and scary. The second time, my piece brought tears to a few writers' eyes, and I knew I was ready to explore taking my writing beyond the hobby level. I just found your blog, and I'm really enjoying reading it. I'll check in regularly.

Melanie Fowler said...

Oh hey Peggy, it's nice to meet you!

So I think for me, it was after I finished my first 'crap' story, but at the time, I had no idea what that was. Basically it's your first story written and finished.

Then I let is loose on some family so they could edit it.

And they liked it, but I wanted to improve my story, and I have so much to learn still. I've been writing this same story since 2007, and I want to do it right. Because for me, my idea is so big, it has to be shared, and I will do what it takes to get it done!

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I wrote my first book in 2nd grade, but as far as being able to handle critique, I'm still not sure how good I am at it. I can do it, for sure, but I still have that initial defensive reaction when people are critical and I have to live with the criticism for a few days before I can allow myself to see that maybe they're right :)

Amie Kaufman said...

I know this might sound strange, but I'm not sure I ever had that realisation--one day I just discovered I was doing it!

Christa Desir said...

Wow, that's a great "moment." For me, it was when I couldn't stop writing, no matter what. That was my "no turning back" time. But yes, I've had to develop a very thick skin. Glad I found your blog!!!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Lynda-- It IS a great feeling! And I totally know that bookstore desire. :)

M-- Nice! It's good to hear it's worth it. :)

Iain-- Well, yeah. Why wouldn't they love it? Glad you carried on. :)

Kristen-- Hahahaha! Yeah, I agree. That's a great indicator.

Cynthia-- Sigh, yes. All part of the process.

Romance-- It's totally okay not to be there yet! Whenever you're ready... that's the best time.

Janet-- Nice! That's a fabulous indicator.

Carrie-- That one can definitely take a lot of guts! Especially when you get mixed reactions...

Angela-- That's a FABULOUS realization! I loved your story!

Tania-- Nice! You were BORN with guts!

Kelley-- Your story made me laugh out loud! Let's read this and see if I don't puke is an awesome indicator.

Karen-- Awww! I love that!

Mel-- Oh my gosh. I love that you are willing to do what it takes to get it right! So awesome.

Susanna-- There are definitely some critiques that are harder than others, and that take longer to realize that they were right. I had a couple that I just kind of filed away, and even a month or two later, I got inspired on how to fix something that I had heard in a critique and hadn't quite known what to do.

Amie-- That might just be the best way. :)

Christa-- I love that! I'm glad you did, too. :)

Kristy Shen said...

I have more problems handling compliments than critiques. I'm always thinking people are just being nice and aren't really saying what their thinking. Guess I'm just paranoid or have low self-esteem.

Thanks for following my blog! Your blog rocks so I'm totally following you now :)