There was a post this week in a Facebook group I belong to. The poster said she had just published her first book and was very excited, until someone in her life told her she was a “failed writer”. Then, I was reading a non-fiction book this week, where the author used a friend as an example about having to give up old ways of thinking, because this person wanted to write a book, but his teacher in 5th grade told him he was not a good writer.
Hold on, let me drag my soap box over to the mic. It’s a heavy little sucker. Just a sec, ok here we go…
I would say if you haven’t experienced some sort of failure, be it as little as a typo you are not a writer. It is part and parcel of the job. Writing is one of the most subjective mediums on the planet and EVERYONE has an opinion. In fact, it is one of the few mediums I can think of where the top critics can be people who have never actually done the thing they are commenting on and still be considered an expert in the field.
I would also say, that until you can admit your work could be better, you are not a writer who will advance in their career. As writers we depend on our readers and their comments and suggestions to propel us forward. As a very new author it is sometimes difficult to see where we could have done better, or to acknowledge the plot hole in the sagging middle. If we can’t see or at the least acknowledge where we can improve, we will not, so failing is a requirement for moving up the rung of the ladder in this field.
No successful person can say they got where they were without failing along the way. Life is a learning process and as long as we learn from our failures, they become building blocks of who are at present.
Now, as for the man who won’t write today because his 5th grade teacher told him he was not a good writer, I have this to say.
No 5th grader is a good writer by adult publishing standards. But, also, I am going to assume that this gentleman didn’t drop out of every English class he was offered from 6th grade up. If any number of extraordinary people stopped trying after one person said they were not good at what they did, it would be a very sorry place to live.
I used to teach and there was a saying that teaching is 85% performance and 15% content. Well the same could be said for talent vs. passion in writing.
At the end of the day, you will never be everyone’s cup of tea. For every fabulous review I get there are reviews about the same book that say it is not well written, or the characters aren’t believable, etc. Look up the reviews on Harry Potter and read some of the one stars. I assume J.K. Rowling isn’t shuffling around her mansion eating a pint of ice cream because she is devastated over them.
Critics and haters are a reality in our world today, and social media sometimes gives them a stage making them appear to have more power than they do. And, in the writing world in particular there seem to be an overabundance.
You can’t control how people are going to receive your work. What you can control is that you put out a book that you love, one you are proud of. You will be a better writer tomorrow, so there is no perfection, there is only the best it can be today. People are going to love it and people are going to hate it.
Dote on the ones that love you and your work, they are the ones who will
help you through your career. For the ones who still see you as your 5th grade self, nod at them for their effort as your 5 star fans carry you across the internet on their shoulders shouting “we want the next book!” and smile as you pass the haters. They hate that.
At the end of the day, as long as I love my story, and I know it was the best book I could put out on that day I am fine with that. I hope every book isn’t my best book. I hope the next one will be better, but this book is who I was today.
So, go out and fail today. Write that 5th grader’s story. It doesn’t matter, just write. If you do that you haven’t failed at anything.