So, I went to a special young writer friend of mine and posed the question, "As a young writer, what are some questions you'd like answers to in regards to writing (the life, the practice, etc.)?"
What I got was a nice list of questions, and I'd like to answer one now:
There are three important things a young writer needs to know; well, there are a lot of things a young writer needs to know, but to answer this question, I'll tackle three things.
Every writer will face criticism. It's just going to happen. As long as people have a right to their opinion, they will have opinions of your work, and sometimes, those opinions will be negative. Personally, as a writer, I tend to ignore most "criticism"--unless it is constructive. If someone is criticizing just to criticize, then it doesn't help me as a writer. However, when I receive constructive criticism, there is something there for me to learn from, to perhaps better my writing. I truly believe that writers should take part in a lifelong learning of the writing craft, and part of that learning comes from receiving constructive criticism and being able to discern what within that criticism can help your writing. Believe me, once upon a time, I cried at every rejection I received and after some workshops during my MFA years, I tucked my tail and went for some libations. But once I understood that in the end, it's about developing the best writing you can, I began to welcome constructive criticism and was eager (believe it or not) to revise works. It's a process, and with any process, it takes time to overcome some fears. But you can overcome them.
Here, I will say MOST because they are those few miracle writers who have had a pretty easy road of getting an agent and getting a deal (why aren't these people writing books on how that happened? But I digress...). Most writers will face rejection. When I was younger, I had enough rejection letters to create an accent wall in my bedroom. And can face rejection from almost anywhere--other writers, agents, editors, readers... And it hurts. And you'll be mad. And you'll be upset. And you'll want to quit writing. But if writing truly matters to you, you won't stay away for too long because characters will call you back to the page. For me, I've always lived with the understanding that as long as I knew something, that something couldn't surprise me too much, couldn't put me down for the count. If I know I will face criticism, if I know I will face rejection, it somehow lessens the sting of them for me and keeps me on the writing path I really want to stay on.
In the big scheme of things, it's good that others like what you do. That's how you get published and that's how you make sales and hopefully stay published. At the end of the day, however, criticism and failure must take a back seat to your desire to write. When you come to the table to write, you have to learn to dropkick those two pesky bandits and focus on what brought you to the table to begin with: that desire, those characters, those situations that call you to develop a whole other world. You have to write for you and that desire because if you write for acceptance, if you write to somehow lessen the criticism and eradicate the failure, you may lose your writer self, and then where will you be? When you wrangle the fear of criticism and failure and put you and your stories in the driver's seat, you'll notice that over time, the need to wrangle the damaging duo will dissipate.
To you all out there in BRP Land, What would you tell an aspiring writer whose fear of criticism and failure keeps her/him from jumping in and writing?