I didn’t know how much I needed this post until Bethany sent it to me today! What a wonderful reminder that as writers, and as humans living in today’s world, our passions should be worth suffering for. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did!
In the writing world, we hear a lot about developing a “thick skin.” We know published authors talk about harsh negative reviews. We know some readers can be cruel.
It seems easy enough to think that once we get to the point of publishing, we should simply have realistic expectations and resolve to ignore the haters. We can’t please everyone, right? We can just prepare ourselves ahead of time for that lousy one-star, right?
I’m not so sure anymore.
In preparing to publish my short story, Threadbare, I sent it to a few people, and in the process I received some negative feedback. It was completely expected. It wasn’t harsh. It wasn’t from a cruel stranger; it was from someone trying to help me improve the story.
And yet it sent me into a tailspin for half the day.
I was ticked off at myself—and unnerved. What if, in spite of all my logical mental preparation, I can’t handle negative reviews? What if I’m a pathetically oversensitive snowflake after all, and bad feedback breaks me??
Formerly so excited about debuting a story, I began to have second thoughts…not about the value of the story or my decisions in revising it, but about my ability to put such a raw piece of my heart in front of the world and open myself to inevitable criticism.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized something. The point isn’t to have a thick skin, necessarily. Some writers naturally have that—some writers may never develop it. But whether your skin is thin or thick isn’t the issue.
What matters is your passion.
Do you believe in your heart of hearts that this story you’re writing is worth being broken for? Is it worth taking a beating? Whether your skin is “thick” or “thin,” the criticism is inevitable. Is your story worth that?
I think anyone who is truly a writer—who truly has stories stamped in their mind and branded across their soul—will say YES.
YES, because this story is mine and mine alone, and only my voice can bring it into being.
YES, because God has given me things to say that must be said.
YES, because I see hurts I want to mend, hearts that need comfort this book could bring.
YES, because stories matter and I have a desire to change the world.
Like giving birth, at the end of the day, it isn’t about how much pain we can take. It’s about the baby…or, in this case, the story. Is that story worth it?
“Making the decision to have a child—it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone
Writing is similar—if not even more so, because these stories are literally birthed from our hearts and souls! Baring our hearts will always result in pain at some point, but if telling stories is what we are called to do, it will be worth it.
Threadbare is out now. (Happy dance!) So far, reviews have been good. Someday I’m sure I’ll get a negative one that will make me shrivel up inside, but I love it enough to know that chance is well worth it.
Writers will encounter criticism. It may be tempting to hold back, to hold those pieces of our heart close and protect ourselves from hurt, but if we love those stories we will push through and share, because we know they deserve to be told.
Stories are worth the beautiful breaking of our hearts.
“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one… Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Bethany A. Jennings is a YA science-fiction and fantasy author, and a chronic night owl. She is endlessly passionate about the power of speculative fiction, both to shape hearts and cultures and to unveil hidden realities. Bethany can be found wrangling her toddlers, running Twitter events, or inventing new kinds of sandwiches—but no matter where she is, worlds and stories are dancing in her head. Born a southern California girl, she now lives in New Hampshire with her husband and four children, zero pets, and a large collection of imaginary friends (a.k.a. her fictional characters). In addition to her fiction writing, she is a freelance editor, blogger, and the organizer of #WIPjoy, a quarterly online event designed to help authors rekindle the joy for their works-in-progress.
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