Wednesday 8th March 2017
One of the things I’ve been reading a lot online in the past week or so, is that you have to learn not to care what people say.
Critcism is a difficult thing for a writer. Art is subjective. What one person loves, another may hate. I have close friends who hated the first draft of Black as Knight. Ignore all criticism and you run the risk of Dunning-Krueger syndrome; take every comment to heart and you’ll never write again.
There are people whose comments matter. My agent, future editors.
As for readers, it can be a mixed bag. People bring their own agendas to their reading. As a result, it’s not unusual to see criticisms of a work that no-one other than that reader saw. So you can ignore them, or if you are able to, you can take them with a pinch of salt.
I’m very open to criticism, but I don’t always like it when it’s delivered. I know I can’t make everyone love my work and it still stings when someone gives something of mine a bad review (thankfully there’s only been a few of those)… but my view is that if you put art out there for people to consume, they have a right to comment.
So I’d like to think that as a writer, I’ve got it right, that I can accept criticism without taking it too much to heart.
But I do sometimes feel I self-sanitise a bit too much. In terms of social issues and politics, I’m pretty much in alignment with most left-leaning writers. I’ve got no real skeletons in the closet. And yet, I often find myself holding back. Black as Knight was written as an experiment. I think if I’d written it as a book I intended to sell, it wouldn’t have been as good. I still worry whether having a LGBT protagonist will affect the book’s sales (and it bugs the hell out of me that I do!).
On one level The Climb is about documenting my journey, but it’s also on another level making me step outside my comfort zone. In just 45 days, my attitude to selfies has completely changed, I feel more confident in myself.
But then I do posts like yesterday’s where I talk honestly about ego and I come away worrying. Have I come across too egotistical? Did I balance it with the right level of humility?
In that respect, I shouldn’t care what people think. I should document my own truth and strive for honesty rather than trying to be “liked”.
But a non-writing incident today highlighted just how much I do still care about others’ opinions. I came away from a meeting asking myself why I worried what someone thought. I’d been honest, could document that honesty and yet I worried that someone wasn’t happy with me despite this.
That’s the point where I should have said, “fuck it, let them have their opinion.”
And yet it has consumed my head all day. Instead of feeling on a high after getting the chase scene down yesterday, I’m self-evaluating, analysing whether there’s something I’ve done that could have given this person the wrong impression. Am I seeing an issue when there isn’t one there?
I could deal with this if it didn’t use up so much mental real estate. Instead of using long drives to think about the next scene, I’m trying to people-please.
Just like a book review, people are going to bring their own agendas. But whereas there I can take a review for what it is (a single person’s opinion), I don’t seem to be able to apply that same rationale to personal criticism.
It’s something I want to get better at.
A busy day meant I did not get a lot of writing done. After a late session last night I was late to rise, and then was busy with day job and teaching Swordfighting.
I’m very pleased with how my students are coming along. We’re following one of the historical fencing texts and working to interpret the words into various attacks and counter-attacks. On one level, as they joke, I am just reading from a book. In some ways they are right. I’m running it as a workshop (mainly because this was done with me and I found it incredibly beneficial). But on another level, I’m teaching them to analyse a fight. There’s nothing so satisfying as reading a counter-attack from a book and having a student go, “I know how to do this one”.
It’s really satisfying to see them grow.
Today saw my Chicken Satay Skewers swapped out for Turkey Meatballs. I screwed up and got a salad from the work canteen when I didn’t need to so mucked up my intake for the day. I shall pay for that tomorrow. Being on such a restrictive diet is challenging, and even more so when I’m going out tomorrow night. I think I’ve got it covered though.
I only hope that now it looks like I have a diagnosis for why my body gains and drops weight like it does, it’ll make it easier to control. That still seems a little way off and in the meantime I have to continue to deal with people who criticise me for not letting illness stop me.
I need to learn not to care what other people think.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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