As a mother of two teenage sons, I’m no stranger to tough love. I like to think that I know what’s best for them even if they rarely agree. Do I rise to their moaning that “everybody is allowed to…” blah blah blah? No chance! I tell them to suck it up. It’s part of my job description as their mum to be cruel to be kind. I have to tell them things that they don’t want to hear.
But being on the receiving end of a home truth isn’t easy. My second experience of a writing workshop wasn’t any less painful. Hearing your work being criticised and not being allowed to interrupt is not for the faint hearted.
Luckily I had just read the latest post on Nicola Morgan’s excellent blog, ‘Help! I Need a Publisher’. http://helpineedapublisher.blogspot.com/2011/11/beware-of-praise.html
This week’s post, ‘Beware of Praise’ really helped me accept the blows when I later read the written comments (although a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon Rose wine helped even more).
Nicola’s analogy is that praise is very like chocolate. “It tastes great at the time. Too much of it is (regrettably) bad for you.” Oh how true!!
Would it have been nice to walk out of uni with praise ringing in my ears? Hell yes! But would it have made me a better writer? Duh! Of course not, so I have to suck it up like I tell my boys.
Nicola warns wannabe writers to accept praise with extreme caution. And not to listen to your family and friends if they gush over your writing. Step away from praise. It can be your enemy unless it comes from someone qualified in the publishing industry or whom you trust and value.
It’s sound advice. At the beginning of the year, I experienced a line by line edit by my literary agent on my previous novel. She made comments like,
“This section should hit me like a punch in the stomach. It doesn't. You can do better.”
So you would think that by now I’d have skin as thick as a rhino’s. Alas, it’s not that simple. I value the opinions of my fellow students and my lecturer and if I didn’t care about my writing it wouldn’t hurt. As Jane Fonda would say, “No pain, no gain!”
Next semester will mean a fresh bout at the workshop. I will grit my teeth and stock up on rose wine! Bring it on!!