The Seemingly Hardest Part of Writing: Taking Criticism

Seemingly, because it isn’t, but feels like it. Seemingly because when you ever get to the point where you’re finally taking criticism, you’ve already gone past the hardest part, which is actually writing something real; something with substance. And yet, when you do have your manuscripts and your second, third, fourth drafts in your hands or saved on your hard drives, all that difficulty and hardship you faced while typing your soul into letters and words goes out the window, and then you let people see what you’ve dedicated so many countless hours, nights, weeks and months on. This is what seems to be the hardest part, even if it isn’t. And this is why it is so hard to do, because you’re afraid that what you believe in will be worth nothing in the eyes of others.

But you can’t let that stop you.

Everything you ever wish to be, no matter what, can be simplified to nothing more than a hill. The hill starts off nice and green, but as it gets higher you see more bushes and thorns, wild animals and harder steps. It’s so frightening to think about starting the journey, because it’s an act of aggression towards everyone who hasn’t begun. It’s so easily interpreted as, “I know I’m better than you, and I’m going to prove it,” when so many of your peers would rather be content with not doing it. And even if that’s not what you mean, and it shouldn’t be, that’s how it’s going to seem.

For us writers, getting published, handing someone a manuscript, sending query letters out — these are all steps to climbing that writing hill. But every time you take another step, you’re afraid that the others down below are going to see the panties up your dress, stained in the secret yellow liquid of fright that you never meant to show anyone. You fear they’ll laugh at you or that the bruises will hurt if you ever take one unbalanced step up the hill, and as you petrify yourself with all these thoughts, you then wonder if it’s even worth it at all.

So you ask yourself, “Why even bother?” Why climb up the hill and try to see what lies above its curve? Is it worth it? Surely the rumors of whatever pot of gold or sunny field over there are lies, just to taunt you into wanting more for your life and yourself. You convince yourself with thoughts of, “I shouldn’t even bother. I’m fine the way I am, and I don’t have to prove myself to anyone.” And you don’t, at least, if you feel that way. If you honestly, truthfully feel that way. If you can sit back and be happy in the shadows of that hill for the rest of your life, then that is great for you.

But you know you can’t, because the fact that you ever thought about it at all shows the truth you were so afraid others would find. It shows the hope that you are better than what you’ve been laid out to be, and you know it. And you don’t care if others think of you as the amazing person who climbed the hill, that’s not what drives you. What drives you is the challenge and the wonder. What drives you is that it’s possible, and there’s absolutely no reason not to do it. You have to take those steps, and you have to fall. You have to feel the pain when you tumble down that soft grass, as if God himself was taunting you by making it rain every night. You have to hear the voices of ridicule calling you names and making you feel like nothing. You need that strength, because without it, your muscles will never grow. Without feeling that pain in your legs, they’ll always stay soft like toothpicks. And that’s not what you want.

But the truth? Your fears are true. You will fall, and they will laugh. You will hate yourself for falling, and you will ache from the bruises for a bit. But knowing it, knowing all of your fears are real… should that frighten you? Should that turn you away? Their laughs will fade, the bruises will heal, but your experience will always be there. You’ll know which step made you fall, and you’ll know how to fix it. And maybe you’ll fall again, but you got higher. You got closer. The laughs may be a little louder and the bruises may hurt a little more, but they’ll all go away again and again. But it’s impossible to get weaker if you keep trying. Your muscles will never disappear if you keep at it, and the memories in your head will never be lost if you keep thinking.

Which is why you should never stop. You may hear stories of others who got there on the first go, or on the second, but you’ll also know of stories of those who got there on their hundredth try. But once, twice, three times or a hundred — it doesn’t matter, because the hill will wait. The hill will always be there, and the only thing stopping you is your fear of falling. But why should you be afraid when you know it’s inevitable? You know you’ll die someday, should that stop you from ever doing anything risky or fun? Should that keep you bottled inside, never willing to let that day accidentally come closer? No. It will come, but you don’t let yourself fear life because of it. And neither should you delay the inevitable fall of climbing up that hill.


8 thoughts on “The Seemingly Hardest Part of Writing: Taking Criticism

  1. Sliding down the rain sodden hill, wet grass slapping your face, one may think, “There must be some stealthy ass way to conquere this here hill, for this direct assault is not working.”

    Much of the time, with writing, criticism isn’t about changing the manner of your talent, but the quest worthy search to find that singular individual of merit of whom will be your champion.

    Like anything, the writing world has its conformity, it’s who is or isn’t acceptable, paradigms and narrowmindedness. The one most to champion a talented upstart will be the most uncategorical and tumultuous to their peers.

    So, search! Search ’round that mound of crags, gravel and bone breaking slope, to find the cave of the cranky hermit, but a king or queen in seclusion, who will grant you a worthy boon of career, for your less traveled path, humility and devotion.

    And, I get what you mean, that past time you came rolling down the hill, it was me you hit that made you rise up in the air, do a summer salt, and land on your ass. I have a bruised on my side in the shape of your face.

    Writers, Unite!

  2. Hi there, although my line of work does not involves anything around writing, I enjoyed this article very much. Such flair and extremely inspirational. I recently embarked on my dream too. And your blog and this article in particular had in a way gave me a tat bit of inspiration. Thanks and cheers to you 🙂

  3. Hi there, although my line of work does not involves anything around writing, i enjoyed it very much. Such flair and extremely inspirational. I recently embarked on my dream too. And your blog and this article in particular had in a way gave me a tat bit of inspiration. Thank you and cheers to you 🙂

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