I was sitting in a beautiful, wood-paneled kitchen in the Hamptons. I felt sick to my stomach, and I was pretty sure that sweat was starting to form on my forehead. What could cause so much anxiety in such an idyllic setting?
I was about to read my writing out loud.
As all you writers know, there is nothing quite as terrifying (at least, as far as art goes) as reading your work out loud. This is particularly true if you recently received a scathing critique that basically said you are a hack that should give up on writing completely.
Not that I am speaking from experience or anything.
Okay, she might not have said that exactly. But I recently did give my work to someone who clearly did not get it. My first clue that it was a bad match was that she said she didn't get humor in writing.
Most of my writing is pure humor.
So yeah, it wasn't a match made in heaven. (Learn from my mistake, folks. Always make sure your beta reader/editor is a good match for your book. Basically, you want someone who is familiar with/actually likes your genre or style of writing.)
Anyway, I had just recovered from a round of not-so-constructive feedback (constructive criticism gives you ideas on how to fix problems, not-so-constructive feedback just tells you what the problems are) so I was not exactly clicking my heels to share my work with other people.
Still, despite the urge to hide under my white, fluffy blanket, I took a deep breath and read the first line out loud.
Then the miracle occurred: they laughed. (This was the intended effect.)
I read another line.
They laughed again.
Before I knew it, I was laughing, too.
Anne Lamott famously said, "Laughter is carbonated holiness." I truly believe that. After I received a warm response, I knew that I could actually share my work with my world, and it could truly be seen and appreciated. I finally realized that I might actually make a successful go of this whole writer thing.
Now, this isn't a post that is about how negative feedback is wrong. I think it is good to find out areas of your book to fix (after all, I am an editor). But if someone absolutely destroys your work in an unhelpful way, don't be afraid to get a second opinion (don't be afraid of that in general).
Also, don't be afraid to share your work. Don't keep it hidden on your laptop without anyone's eyes on it. Show it to someone you trust. You might be surprised. She might just laugh (in a good way).
Do you want to share your work with me? Find out ways I can get my eyes on your work here. I promise I give constructive feedback. I also have a great sense of humor. ;)