There’s a pretentious title for you, eh? Sorry, I’m feeling slightly ugh today, and this is all I got.
I was catching up on Nathan Bransford’s blog this morning and read this piece on writers and sensitivity. It was such good subject for a post that I felt like doing my own about it. Nathan’s post was interesting for the same reason many agents’ twitter feeds and blogs are interesting to me: it gives me a glimpse of what a day in the life of an agent is like, and the more of those I read, the more it sounds to me like agents take a lot of abuse from querying writers. Or, at minimum, some abuse that’s fairly memorable.
And this isn’t a surprise, is it? Anyone who was watching the fascinating mass-hissyfit that was #queryfail and then #agentfail got a pretty good look at what frustrated, rejected writers + public feedback + internet anonymity can add up to.
(In some cases, I should say. Not in all cases, or even most cases. I think the majority of We Who Query know how to take it on the chin without flinching: but the few who do have something angry to say often say it so loudly that the rest of us are kind of invisible by comparison.)
So here’s where I’ll just come out and say it: I get it. I’m sensitive about my writing.
That’s a no-brainer for me. I care about these characters. I spend endless hours thinking about word choice, theme, plot, you-name-it– I come up with a plot I like and an MC I love, and I jump in heart-first and I don’t look back till I hit THE END. I take it personally. I can’t not: if I didn’t care this much, I just don’t see how I could expect anybody else to. Now, I don’t think that’s a requirement to be dubbed a writer, and I know some very good writers who don’t feel this way… but it does seem to be a pretty common stage in the process, one that maybe some of us don’t ever leave.
And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Frankly, I think I work best this way.
~And now for the but!~
But... I do think there’s something wrong with letting that get in the way of 1) your learning curve, and 2) your career. If you can’t take a critique because to you it feels like a personal attack, then not only have you just wasted both your time and somebody else’s, but you don’t have much hope of getting better. If getting a rejection from an agent or editor is as painful to you as getting dumped… well, then maybe you should think about another way to pass the time, say stamp collecting. Because once other human beings are allowed into the weird little world(s) you built, you’re going to get kicked in the teeth at least a couple times. It’s inevitable. Get used to the idea. Pitch a fit about it and you can expect people will remember that about you first, and your talent second.
Care. By all means care: care till your eyes pop out and you bleed ink. You may get over that after a while (well okay, if your eyes actually pop out you may not), or it may stay with you forever. Just remember that when you move out of the messing-around-with-it realm into the I’d-like-to-get-paid-for-this realm, you’ve got to check your ego at the door. Out here very few people have time to make you feel better: out here honesty and bluntness are virtues, and if you listen long enough you will come to see them that way too. Because there’s always room for improvement, and for every fifty people who say no, if you’re lucky and patient and serious about your work, there may be that one who says yes. And that one is all it takes.