Friday, February 03, 2006

Thicker Skin

After reading the commentary over at Sarah's blog in regards to Tess Gerritsen and her Edgar award nomination, I was chuffed to read Tess's own take on the subject of criticism. It was a great affirmation for me, because I have noticed a strange personal development over the last year or so.

My skin's got thinner.

I honestly used to not give too much of a shit about what people thought of me. Which is not to say I've been a horrible person, it's just that my particular take on life is not one that falls into general acceptance by the masses. Even the weirdos worry about me.

First I got all thoughtful and introspective about my place in the mystery universe, then an unknown person commented on one of my stories. My initial reaction was that the story was better than that, but then I shifted into thinking about how to improve it.

Do I get rid of this character and spend more time on this one? How can I change the dialogue so that it rings a little less cliched?

What it comes down to is this: as writers, we have to be our own first line of criticism. To write well, we must constantly analyse and tear apart our work, with the goal of putting it back together in a better shape. This becomes a habit, and it's very easy for that habit to spill over into who we are as a person. We tend to become more critical in general, and this is easily extended to self criticism.

On top of that, since I started writing seriously, I've noticed my speech patterns change. Because of this constant revision, I find myself thinking about three possible sentences every time I speak. The result of this confusion is: "Sen ... tence a doesn't any that sense make." Happens to me all the time.

So since I decided to become a writer I have turned into an uncertain, self-conscious, gibbering mess of a man.

And I love it.


Mary said...

Dear gods, it is so true! PS. You need to drink more too. That'll help with the care factor to a degree. Chill :-P

Sarah said...

That's why shitty first drafts are crucial. Because going through the muck, you find the gems.

I went through this last year during the first Blog Project when all of them were reviewed at another blog:

jamie ford said...

Happens to all of us.

It's that sweet spot between being so hypercritical that you can't function, and so oblivious to your own faults that your work never improves.

Unfortunately, it's not a quiet peaceful place. It's a jangled mess-hall filled with joy, excitement and self-doubt.

At least you have company there.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

The toughest part is figuring out who's criticism to take seriously. Most of the time it's the blind leading the blind. Styles and tastes are different from person to person, and if the folks who are giving feedback aren't your audience, it might be useful, but it might also be nothing but noise.

And, for dealing with those people, of course, I have to agree with Mary. Drinking. Heavy drinking. Nothing fortifies one's self against criticism more than a couple belts of scotch.

And if that doesn't work tell them you're going to tear out their liver and eat it. Works for me.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Thanks for the excellent responses people.

Now, to buy some sandpaper (for my skin, to make it thicker, yes?).

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well said, Stephen.

But drinking while people are trashing you could be a dangerous option. Unless you're one of those blubbering teary-eyed drunks.