Writing requires serious vulnerability. When you publish anything from a comment to an article, you are really putting yourself out there. You are sharing something of yourself and from yourself for the world to see. And as we all know, the world can sometimes be a harsh place.There were times I would watch an article of mine post online, and as the comments would start to pour in, I would sit with knots in my stomach, terrified that the piece would be hated. And you know what? Sometimes it was.
There were articles that were bashed. There were articles that were absolutely loved. And on a few occasions, there were articles that people later told me actually saved their lives.
I would say that makes up for any and all negative. But it doesn’t mean it is easy to see your words ripped to shreds, even if only by a few.
And that is because when our writing is criticized, it is actually not our writing. It is our thoughts, our feelings, our perspective, our experience. And that cuts to the core.
But it is also a tremendous lesson if we can look behind the hurt and actually hone in on what the reader didn’t like. And I don’t mean the trolls. But the valid ones from people that took offense to something we wrote or maybe how we wrote it.
As hard as it may be to admit, my writing has improved tremendously, not despite, but because of my critics. For years I wrote for a site where I was pretty much preaching to the choir. People were on the site because they already shared similar views and we had commonality. When I would publish a piece, for the most part the feedback was positive, supportive and kind. And I loved it. At least my ego did. But did it help me as a writer? Not so much.
Then I began publishing for much larger, diverse audiences. And that is when I started being held accountable. I would be questioned, pushed, analyzed in those comments. And while I don’t believe anyone should sit behind the keyboard and bully…constructive criticism is invaluable.
We may not want to hear it, but we need to hear it. Only a reader can show us if we truly conveyed our intention. It doesn’t matter what we meant to say. It only matters what was understood by the receiver. So if my words unintentionally annoyed, dismissed or outright hurt the reader, the onus is on me as the writer. I didn’t do my job well and that is a lesson I must learn so it can be rectified.
So if you are worried that people may not like something you wrote...they may not. But, you are so much better off getting that feedback, understanding what can be improved and working on it, then choosing out of your own fear and insecurity not to bother publishing it in the first place. And one thing I can assure you of, is that you are much more likely to hear back from those who didn’t like it, than those who did. It is always easier to criticize than compliment. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t so many more out there who loved what you wrote, who were moved by it, and who were inspired by your words. They might just not have told you. But they are there. I assure you. And thanks to the ones who felt the opposite, your next piece will be that much stronger because of it.