We nurture them in our hearts, sometimes for nine months, sometimes longer. Giving birth—getting them down on paper or a hard drive—can be an easy delivery or a painful process. Words, scenes, and chapters may roll from our minds through our fingers with little effort, figments of our imaginations’ creative processes, or emerge from difficult experiences of family, friends, or selves. Pent-up emotions may surface unbidden, sending hot tears cascading down our cheeks as we relive painful, perhaps suppressed events and transfer them to our protagonist or another character. Bottom line: our words often come from deep within, and their birth in written form may remain attached by a literary umbilical cord that refuses to be cut.
What’s the result of this ongoing connection with our words? Our characters insert themselves in our emotional lives. Especially when a story reveals one or more painful experiences we endured, we may be vulnerable to criticism of our work on a much deeper level than when a tale doesn’t have such a personal link.
Negative feedback hurts in any case, but it’s easier to accept if our story has an external basis. It’s the criticisms that pick at our thinly scabbed wounds that have the ability to inflict devastating pain. Ironically, these may be our best works; however, they engender extreme fear because we feel exposed. Harsh words about our story become a personal attack because rapes, abuses, bullying, abandonment, etc., shape our lives and our interactions with others. We can control our characters—what they say, how they get their comeuppances, what they are allowed to do within the framework of our stories. We can provide help for antagonists’ victims, help we ourselves may have longed for but never received. We cannot, however, control the words of readers, editors, critics, or reviewers. This is terrifying.
Rising above such fear demands detachment and determination, neither of which comes easily. Yet our willingness to put our experiences out there in a fictional setting may help others who struggle with similar situations. Does this relieve our pain? For some perhaps—we all react differently. However, negative criticism of such personally inspired works opens old wounds. Fear can overwhelm us, perhaps even squelching a story that begs to be shared.
Many stories do not engender fright; but when they do, should a writer risk pain and fear for the sake of the story? For the sake of readers? Would you do it?
|Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at www.denvereditor.com.|