Getting a Thicker Skin

I am a perfectionist. Always have been.

There’s a reason that The Black Guard Chronicles hasn’t seen the light of day and it’s been completed for almost three years now. I keep polishing and refining and polishing and refining it over and over again. Each time I get through the process, I think, this it, now it’s ready. Then a month or so later, I start editing it all over again. I’m starting to think it will never make it out of this edit loop.

My boyfriend has told me over and over to get outside feedback, that I can’t figure out what works and what doesn’t on my own. He’s right, of course, but efforts to accomplish this usually came to naught. That’s where Scribophile comes in.

Scribophile is great. I really enjoy it. I’ve come across some really interesting works and people and a good community of writers. There’s also a slight problem here. As a perfectionist, if a single person dislikes a certain word or phrase, I feel the need to alter it. This gets tricky when one person loves something and another person says “seriously, cut this. This is dumb.” I have also come across people whose idea of what makes good writing is pretty much the opposite of mine.

There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I find it fascinating to see how truly subjective the idea of a quality piece really is. Of course, I would be lying if I said I found it immediately fascinating. I have to digest it first.

I know I shouldn’t be saying this, but my initial reaction to a harsh review is to get defensive. I would be honestly surprised if any writer on this earth reacted differently. Your work is your baby and you want everyone to love it as much as you do. That’s just the way it is. But! Even if what they say makes me want to plead, “No, you don’t get it. The point here is…” or just go curl up in a ball in a corner and stop showing my writing to anyone because it’s obviously the worst, I know that there’s something useful in what they have to say.

No matter how much I think the critiquer has misunderstood what I was trying to do, or whatever justification I have for feeling defensive, their opinion is valid in their own sort of way and my job is to digest that information and decide what in it I can, in fact, use.

And then! At a certain point! I have to acknowledge that what I write is never going to be perfect. It’s never going to be a piece that every single person will say “This is flawless.” Why? Everything is flawed. I will never release a perfect piece of writing that everyone on earth will love…and that’s okay. That has to be okay.

I have to write what I like and what interests me in my own style and my own voice. I should listen to what others suggest, try it on, see what works, but within the bound of my own style and voice. At some point I have to put what I like and what to read and write out there.

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Reading to Cats

My recent radio silence in the online writing the community can be explained in two ways:

  1. I am working on a side project that demands I complete it before I can rest or work on anything else writing related.
  2. ImageImage

My recent adoption of two shelter kittens has probably been one of the most enriching things I’ve done in a long time. My two new babies have required a lot of work and attention (especially since one must be hand fed), but they are both worth every second.

Until I went to college, there was a cat solidly in my life from the age of three when my mom brought home her aloof and somewhat temperamental orange tabby, who had been living with her parents. Since then, many a feline has crossed my path and taught me about love and life in different ways: from the fat cat who had to tame his wild ways, the orphan rescued from abuse who would only respond to me, the cynical and emotionally bruised calico who could never love another cat again after her best friend’s death, the orange baby whose survival instinct knew no bounds, the clingy calico diva, the regal tabby who played fetch and hunted like a king, to the splotchy tabby with an odd interest in clothes.

Out of the roommate life and on my own, I knew I wanted a cat for my companion, but I struggled with feeling ready for it. Now here we are. I sit on the couch, reading Devil in the White City with a cat on my lap and in the crock of my arm and I find myself reading out loud. I know that may put me firmly in the “Crazy Cat Lady” camp (a moniker I could rant about for a variety of other reasons), but they seem to like the sound of my voice even if they don’t know what the words mean.

…which considering what I’m reading is probably best. No need to give them nightmares for goodness sake.