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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