- An unkind comment is made on your blog. The writer accuses you of being inaccurate and requests that, from now on, only 'real writers' write posts.
- A critiquer rips apart your first draft, then uses one of your writing weaknesses as the subject of her next blog post.
- An agent sends a form reject for the MS she's had for two months and gives zero reasons for rejection.
- A friend/parent/relative gets a puzzled look whenever you mention your writing and wonders why you don't take up crafting instead because "at least then you'd have something useful when you're finished."
- You read a fabulous blog post on setting and realize with dismay you've completely forgotten to add one element of it in the MS you just sent off to your no. 1 agent.
Whether it comes from a stranger, a beta, a professional, someone who's supposed to love you, or YOU, there are so many ways we can lose our joy of writing. Blogger Alex Cavanaugh has even started a blog hop called the 'Insecure Writers Group' that meets monthly to shore up the crumbling walls of confidence. It's no secret writer-folk are synonymous with needy-folk, because we need praise, help, companionship, encouragement. Writing is so solitary and ephemeral. It's very easy to get sucked into the vortex of despair.
This is especially true for the newbies. At the heart of rejecting criticism (whether it's justified or not) is the false belief that real, professional writers are above the common mistakes, whether it be punctuation, spelling, paragraph development or story arc.
As someone who was a professional writer for many years, I learned two things:
1. Criticism is necessary. The harshest criticism is often the best to help us grow. It's like really powerful fertilizer that can burn but also produces fabulous results when used properly.
2. The difference between a 'real' writer and a hobbyist is twofold - a real writer seeks criticism, both to get better and because he/she needs the writing to be shared. And a real writer can't stop. Not really. There may be a hiatus here or there but the need to write seeps through life like water seeps through sand. It's a compulsion, a weird personality tic that many would trade in a moment for, say, a gift for languages, organization, crafting, anything else that appears to be more useful.
So if you're like me and you can't stop, try looking forward to criticism. Don't be a masochist about it and don't be scared either. Words are powerful but in the end, they're just words. You get to choose which ones you let sink into your brain and which ones bounce off.