On Critiques and Mean People

This blog post was inspired by a conversation I had with a few fellow writers earlier (among others, the fabulous Jill Glass). We talked about critique, and the importance of it. And why sometimes, you shouldn’t give a fuck. Because sometimes, critiques aren’t critiques at all, sometimes they’re just vicious people lashing out.

In time, we learn to tell one from the other, but to any writer just starting out, to anyone who hasn’t developed that necessary ‘thick skin’ yet, mean comments can be soul-shattering.

When I was just 15 or 16 years old, I posted a piece of my writing, just a couple pages, on the internet. I thought I might get some comments, at the worst maybe a ‘you suck.’ I got that ‘you suck.’ I got it in the form of a comment that was almost as long as the piece of fiction I posted. This kind person informed me in great detail that I was just one more in a mass of talentless wannabes that clogged up the internet with their suckage.

There were some valid points in there, about my characters, about my plot… you think I focused on any of that? People, this is not how you critique someone! Well, unless you really do want them to stop writing!

I thought to myself then, okay, so I’m not a writer, doesn’t matter. I’ll just be a reader, that’s okay. I can still read.

What my teenage self realized was that I sucked. What my teenage self should have realized was that I sucked because I’d just started. I didn’t see that. Stupid, right?

I didn’t stop writing completely. I participated in some forum RPGs, I wrote short fanfictions. I didn’t think I was particularly good, and I wasn’t. That was okay.

Until I had a story that I needed to tell, that I needed to tell well. Then I read blogs online, I hit the books, anything that helped me tell my story in a more interesting way. I was learning how to be a writer, and I’d forgotten about the critque that had shattered me years ago. I just wanted to tell this damn story. I had started posting it on fictionpress. Suddenly I had readers, and I had to keep them entertained. It was sink or swim. I like to believe that I swam, even when I wasn’t doing it very gracefully.

And then that book was done. So I wrote another one, I wrote a sequel. Halfway through that one, I realized, hey maybe I can be a writer. Maybe this can be learned.

It sure can. So long as you don’t let other people discourage you. I’m not at the end of my road yet. Hell, I can’t even see the finish line, but that’s okay. I’ll get there, or not, and when I see someone rude on my way, I just walk past.

I’m not saying don’t take critique. Critique can be insanely helpful. “You suck,” however,  is not a critque. It’s a comment from a sad sad person with nothing better to do than put you down. The only right reaction to that is to keep writing and show this person up by writing the best damn thing ever. No matter how long it takes.

That is all.