A Little Cake, A Little Humble Pie

I’m sitting here in my easy chair, nursing my wounds after a tree got back at me yesterday for cutting off one of its branches. I thought I had positioned myself safely, but when the branch broke free, it smacked me square in the face and broke my nose. I ended up going into the ER and getting four stitches and my face is black and blue and puffed up today. Rather than doing yard work, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about the role of humility in writing.

Actually, it’s a two-edged sword. I’ve said before that writers are notoriously insecure, that it comes with the territory. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Get too confident and you stop listening to your critics (translation: audience) and you end up talking to yourself. But a writer, in order to survive long term, needs to find a balance.

I don’t read my reviews as much as I used to, probably because I’m not writing as much as I used to. But when I did, I found they did two things. They boosted my ego (“Wow, your book is the greatest thing I’ve ever read!”) or they deflated it (“You’re an idiot! Who told you you knew how to write!”). Taken together, they can make you feel like you’re in a pinball machine bouncing from bumper to bumper, never knowing which way you’re going, or whether that direction is up or down. I remember feeling some days like I was wasting my time as a writer, and other times feeling like I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Hemingway often compared himself to other writers, a symptom of someone who felt inadequate.

The reality is that reviewers on Amazon and elsewhere give you good and bad reviews for a lot of varied reasons. I had a woman give me a two-star review because she didn’t like the time gap between my books. My answer to her was: nothing happened during that time! But it’s important that writers get feedback from others as they go through the writing process. If you are wary of reviews or you’re not getting many at this point, I recommend joining a writer’s group. Often local libraries, colleges and bookstores sponsor writer’s groups, so start there if you’re looking for one. If you can’t find one that way, try online.

I recently joined one that I really like at HTTP://TheNextBigWriter.com. It costs a bit to join, but they are really good about giving you feedback on your work. This doesn’t come without input, mind you. You have to provide feedback for others in order to get your own critique; it’s only fair. But I have made some good friends and gotten some valuable input in the past couple of months.

Most importantly, I have leveled out those highs and lows of writing. I have learned that the writing project I am currently working on isn’t perfect, but it isn’t a lost cause either. The first draft needs a lot of work, but I have friends who are happy to give me input and share suggestions. And that’s worth a lot.

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