I am learning that writers must be bold and daring. This is actually opposite of the personality it takes to sit at a keyboard and write many times.
It takes boldness to “put yourself out there” with your writing. Any art form is like birthing a baby—it’s a part of you, a part of your very soul you are baring. That makes it very vulnerable to criticism.
A friend had her writing attacked online by a vituperous reader. The person who criticized was nasty with her words, attacking the writer’s abilities. It was not done in a way that gave constructive criticism even. This was very hurtful and stopped her in her tracks for a time.
I remember showing my first attempt at an oil painting to a new friend who was taking art lessons through correspondence. I had copied a painting of some dolphins on a stormy sea, jumping through fog. It was quite monochromatic and done in blues.
“Oh, no,” she said. “You painted them wrong, your strokes should go around them to show their roundness and not straight along their sides. And your sky should be smooth, not rough.” My artistic spirit withered on the spot.
I put my painting away for a year. Then I met someone who taught lessons for free in her home, just for the joy of it.
“You did just fine,” she said. “A smooth sky is the mark of an amateur. And your strokes show the movement of the dolphins.”
I was so encouraged I have been painting for 40 years and recently sold another painting, having sold quite a few over time.
Keep at the task, put yourself out there. Believe in your gift.
Recently part of the time in our local writers meetings we have listened to an audio book, “If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit,” by Brenda Ueland. She said self-trust is the most important thing.
She also said, “Mentally at least 3 times a day, thumb your nose at all jeerers…” She is very inspiring. “You must freely and recklessly make new mistakes.”
She talks about writing in a fury, and finding your true self. Then writing and the characters that people your stories will be believable.
She also says, “If you write a bad story, the way to improve it is to write three more!”
There are many more gems in her book, but those are some I wrote down as worthy of remembering, I thought.
Writing boldly while alone in our creative space, waiting boldly for the right idea to come, and presenting it boldly to the world, these are goals to be cultivated by writers.
And as a lesson to ourselves, learning how to respond to our fellow writer’s boldness. If we write a critique or give a verbal one, we must not kill the boldness, but nudge it and nurture it in the right direction.
If we see a need for more conflict, we can say, “I wonder what would happen if you showed more conflict? Maybe in the relationship between John and his mother.” Or, “have you thought of describing the weather in that scene and showing how the character being chilled might cause her to act?”
Asking questions, wondering out loud, and never stomping on someone’s baby in a brash manner, can bypass our defense mechanisms and cause much more thought about doing something differently by the person we are talking to, then killing the creative urge.
As Ueland, who died in 1985, puts it, “The only way to love a person is by seeing them and listening to them. By doing this you keep the poet alive and help it flourish.”