I can be kind of thin-skinned, and I’ve simply learned to accept that
I’m editing my middle-grade novel, and I’m slowly going through my agent’s comments. I say ‘slowly’ because whenever I go through critiques, I can only take a few comments at a time, because otherwise I just get too wound up.
I can have kind of a thin skin when it comes to critique. I mean, I’m not the worst in the world. I’ve met plenty of writers who are utterly devastated by critique, in a way that’s rather unattractive and unproductive. But I’m also not the best. I get wounded by criticism of my manuscripts. And the wounds tend to be even worse when they’re by people whom I respect as readers.
For a long time I struggled against this. I know it’s not the right way to be, so I soldiered through, trying to force myself to not feel resentful or angry when I get critique. But that was a losing battle. No matter how much I told myself that I ought not to feel bad about critique–they were critiquing the manuscript and not the person–it never really worked. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that some people are just more sensitive to this sort of thing than others.
So I’ve evolved a different way of dealing with it. Nowadays when I get an edit letter or a critique, I read it through once and then I put it away for awhile. During that time I often do some brooding and feel bad. Then I go back, a few weeks later, and read through everything more carefully. At this point, I usually note that it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was. In my mind, I’d turned the critique into something harmful and devastating–an indictment of the core of the work. But in reality it was just some comments on how it could be better.
The key here is time and space. I try to allow myself to feel insecure and wounded. Going through workshop comments is the one part of my writing process that I do without turning off the internet. I go through a few comments and then I browse Facebook. I go through a few more, and then I browse Facebook some more. I count up the total number of comments, and then I allow myself to just go through a fraction of them on each day. The amount of time and space that I devote to processing the comments is absurd, but it’s what I need. Honestly, the comments don’t even need to be that bad in order to make me flinch. I remember my novel, during one of the final stages of editing, had 500 comments on it. And even the ones that were like, “Does this place really exist” or “Wasn’t he blonde in the previous chapter?” stung me a little bit. But I went slowly, and I got through it.
I am really excited to edit this book, though. It’ll be good to have something out there again.
Oh, in other news, I sold another story. My short-short “The Spider” will appear in Daily Science Fiction. This is, I believe, my fifth sale to them (tied with Nature)! Really odd to me that there can be places to which I’ve sold so many stories. This is also my sixth sale this year at professional rates, meaning this is already my second best year (after 2012), and I’ve still got three months left. It is good to be doing some short story stuff again. For about two years I was having a really difficult time writing stories, particularly science fiction and fantasy stories, and I thought that maybe I was just done with the whole story thing entirely. But starting about a year ago, I slowly regained my fluency. I think I just had a lot of learning to do.
It’s a good lesson to me. I’ve also had a lot of trouble, in this past year, writing novels, and I’ve at times wondered if I’ll ever again write anything good. But life is long, and in the course of a writing career, one dry year is nothing. I’ve mostly spent this year editing books that I’d written in the previous two years, and I think I’ve gained a lot from that. I hope by the end of the year to have revised all my old novel projects and to finally be able to work on new things.