Learning the Lessons

Footprints Ardnave 1I have to admit to being a bit nervous about posting again.  Which is silly, really.  But last week’s battering has really knocked my confidence, and the events of the intervening days have been a rough ride.

But just when you think you can’t cope anymore, the Universe hands you a rose.  This time in the shape of Pola’s loving and kind comment on my last post:

“The reason I’m writing is to let you know that I really appreciate your talent in writing. I appreciate your devotion to your craft and your desire to help others in developing their own style and creativity. So whatever you decide, I just wanted you to know that I think you’re an important voice in the world of writing and that I hope you never give up in your endeavor to have your voice heard. This world would be less without it.”

Thank you so much, dear, dear Pola.  I cannot tell you how much this meant to me.

With your words ringing in my ears, I got back on the horse last night, and wrote a new story, 2207 words of trying something new with ‘Lewis’.  It was somehow important to start again with ‘Lewis’ given that it was a ‘Lewis’ story that caused all the trouble in the first place.  I don’t know where the story came from, it just popped into my head.  I don’t know if I’m ready to publish anything yet either, but it feels so good to be back in the saddle.

I was made to write.  I don’t know how not to.

Somehow, I’m going to have to learn to deal with criticism better, from the sort that is justified to the sort that is completely out of order.  Its very hard to do that when you are already in a tough place.

I realised that I posted the story because I wanted a confidence boost.  I wanted some good reviews to cheer me up.  And when I didn’t get them, got the reverse in fact, it knocked me over completely.

Important Lesson #1:  Do not post your fanfics just to get applause.

I posted ‘Not So Innocent’ on a whim.  I don’t have a beta, so it hadn’t had a second reader look at it.  There was no one to tell me that it had dodgey elements in it.  I had doubts about it, I have to admit, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what they were.  If I’d had backup, maybe I would have seen its faults.

Important Lesson #2: Get a beta reader.

Preferably someone who knows the fandoms I write in, has excellent capacity for spotting my hidden prejudices, and my inability to cope with apostrophes.  I read last night’s creation to Husband (a stickler for apostrophes), which was a very useful exercise (reading your work aloud is always enlightening), but he doesn’t have the time to be a proper beta, and he’s got enough stress on his plate as it is.

I’ve always fought shy of having a beta because I don’t like the idea of the delay it involves.  I’m probably too protective of my work anyway, so having an editor would be good practise in stepping back, and would probably help me handle criticism better.  Plus I’ve had bad experiences with supposedly ‘helpful’ readers in the past.  And I know what a lousy beta I am in terms of getting around to reading other people’s work I’ve offered to read.

If anyone is interested in being a beta for me, and can offer a fast turn-around time, dedication to grammar and a fine eye for possible offending material, please let me know.

Its hard not to feel over-sensitive at this point.  I confess I am still very wobbly.  Things in RL are on shaky ground.  I’m trying to support Husband and his family members as best I can, while dealing with my own illness, and the onset of the most difficult time of the year for me in terms of mental health.  Taking it slow and looking after myself, so that I can look after him, is the best I can do.

Important Lesson #3:  Look after yourself.

And of course:

Important Lesson #4:  DON’T GIVE UP.

So thank you for your continued support.  One way or another, we’ll all get there.

Happy Creating,


5 thoughts on “Learning the Lessons

  1. Wendymr

    I still had this page open, so saw the above post. Good for you for writing again! Yes, you got it wrong with one fic. It’s not a hanging offence 😉 You did the right thing by taking the fic down and recognising yourself why it was wrong. Move on 🙂

    I do think it’s a very good idea to get a BR – not just for the sake of avoiding that kind of error again (which I think is very unlikely to happen), but because a good BR is so positive for your creativity as a writer. A good BR won’t just catch typos and punctuation errors; s/he will also find areas where what’s in your head hasn’t fully translated to the page, or where you’ve alluded to something that readers would love to see explored more. I started working with BRs more than ten years ago and have never looked back. About the only time I don’t use a BR is for some drabbles.

    How to get a BR? I’m not sure that asking here is the best way. Identify someone in the Lewis fandom whose writing you like – structure, characterisation, pacing, SPAG etc – and ask them if they’d be willing. I can’t offer – I already BR for a number of people – but there will be others. Most of us in the Lewis fandom have found BRs through LiveJournal – apart from the Lewis community over there, LJ allows us to private-message each other. I’ve had people PM me to ask if I could BR.

    Good luck!

  2. Pola

    Dear EF,
    Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you liked my rose.

    I have some ideas on the subjects you raise and I’d like to share them here. I ask that you consider them and if you find them helpful, then keep them, and if you don’t, just let them go. I only want to be helpful to you.

    My feeling on the matter is that when one writes, one must write so that the final product is pleasing to one person and one person only: one’s self.

    I had a writing teacher once who told me that you should write your story and ideally lock it in a drawer for 7 years before you come back to it. He said that your perspective would be different and when you read it, you would be your own best beta reader. Of course he was exaggerating with the 7 year remark, but still I think there is merit in the idea of putting your work away even for just 3 days, before coming back to edit it. Then your eyes will be fresh and you’ll be able to see what needs to be changed.

    Writing by committee has been long supported in formal writing programs but in the end, I believe it is always a mistake. It’s your work, after all, and your fingerprints are the only ones meant to be on it, ever. Writing is a solitary endeavor. It comes from your head and heart and there is no intermediary between you and the paper. This is as it should be. This exercise is as old and practiced as the advent of blood and papyrus and I don’t think it has changed that much even in this technological age. Elementally it shouldn’t have, anyway.

    For this reason I have strong feelings about comments as criticism. Because one’s writing is unavoidably connected to the writer’s most vulnerable self, when people criticize one’s writing, it may feel like one’s very person is being criticized. This is never productive and not any fun.

    To my way of thinking, what other people think about me is none of my business. What good is knowing? Will it make me want to change who I am or how I write? If I’m pleased with myself and my writing, why should I allow someone else’s opinion to have so much sway over my life?
    My idea, therefore, is that it is helpful to pay very little attention to what other people think about your writing. It’s lovely to get good comments but sometimes the inner workings of another person’s psyche will interfere with clear feedback and what you will get is a whopping dose of ego instead of helpful constructive criticism. This is never helpful and worse, it can be confusing and whatever the antithesis of “helpful” is.

    I don’t know what this means to a writer’s participation in a writing community, though. Can a writer live by herself in a little bubble without community? Emily Dickenson did. Tons of other writers did in the past. But since we’re living in this age, I wonder if there is a way to live in such a community and be the beneficiary of the gifts of that community without having to suffer the slings and arrows of unsolicited criticism.

    The answer to this lies within each writer, I think. You must decide what’s important to you. If it’s your mental health you’re interested in, then you might consider not reading criticism or when you do, let it go like so much sand flowing out from between your capable fingers. And if it’s development as a writer you’re interested in, well, that happens not in a public forum but in your own personal writing space. The creation of your work is a private thing just for you and the world should count itself lucky when you decide to share your good works. It should not bring you despair when you finally show your well-shaped beloveds to the world, but instead bring you joy and feelings of wholeness. Writers write. It’s who you are. It should feel good when you do it and when you share it.

    Having been a victim of writing by committee and having had my own creative voice crushed beneath the feet of self-serving swine, I’m sorry to report that I speak with considerable experience on this matter. But as you can see, after some healing and some work on putting right my priorities as a person of good mental balance and also as a writer, I have figured out these things I have shared with you and they’ve been helpful to me. I hope you find one or two of the ideas worthy of consideration and it would be a happy privilege and honor if you found even one of these ideas helpful to you, dear EF.

    I hold you in highest regard and keep you in my most positive thoughts.


    1. Pola

      Thank you for your encouragement, EF. I will send you a photo of my finished scarf when it’s done! Oh BOY! Can I post a photo here in the reply section? If so, how do I do that?


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