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A Well Worthwhile Exercise in Humility

Today, I’m going to lambast creative writers. Then on Wednesday, I’m going to lambast editors.

In both cases, it’s well-deserved.

Now, in my obviously biased opinion, writing is an amazing gift to have. It’s fun, invigorating and challenging, and it provides a great escape when you’re bored or irritated or hurt by the real world.

Writing is a beneficial and enjoyable exercise in so many ways, but it’s still an exercise: a sign that you’re not perfect on your own and that you need to do something to improve.

Most creative writers understand that on some basic level. In fact, a lot of us are ridiculously insecure about our stories. Yet we come across as the exact opposite when we ask for outside input or go to give someone else an opinion about their work.

There are several reasons I bring this up, but one of the largest stems from the four or five different Facebook writing groups I’ve joined this year, all of which I’m tempted to leave more often than not due to the overwhelming amount of ridiculousness people post.

For any of you fellow Maryland NanoWriMo-ers, no, I’m not talking about you. That group is a lot of fun.

Recently, though, in a different group, someone wrote that a friend had read his work, only to label it hardcore… ummm… romance because of some rather unconventional elements to his plot and character choices. As much as I’d love to share the actual details, I don’t want to be more explicit than that considering how there are some pretty innocent minds who read this blog.

So let’s just say this guy’s written creation managed to be both violent and really lame at the same time.

Anyway, he asked the online group what they thought about his premise and whether his reviewer was right, then basked in their uninformed responses, which boiled down to the literary equivalent of “You do you, baby boo.”

None of them had actually read his work, yet they were quick to disparage someone who had. And he ate it all up instead of accepting legitimate criticism that, judging by the brief description he gave of his story line, was well-deserved.

No, I’m really not picking on an entire genre here. I’m picking on a single concept: his concept. Vampires are cheesy enough if not handled with care, but this took undignified to a whole new level of lame.

And just for the record, I’m saying this as someone who owns the whole entire Buffy collection on DVD.

Another recent post on one of these Facebook groups was someone who wrote something along the lines of, “Would you agree with this: Self-publishing is for books that aren’t good enough to get traditionally published?”

It was a simple question, yet there was responding comment after responding comment savaging this poster, calling him all kinds of nasty names instead of acknowledging that there certainly are a lot of really poorly written self-published books out there.

Then again, that’s true of the traditional publishing world too.

But even if it wasn’t, there’s no need to take such extreme offense over a legitimate question that might not have been meant offensively in the first place. Maybe it came from a place of mere ignorance instead of a place of insult.

Nobody knows because nobody took the time to ask him why he asked the question. Because it was a bunch of over-opinionated writers egging each other on.

I should probably state right about now that not everything in these online writing groups is bad. Members do encourage each other in a lot of good ways too, offering valuable advice and guidance.

Yet my main point still stands: Most of us writers have to learn to be more teachable. It’s perfectly fine to reject criticism when we feel like it doesn’t fit. But we should always at least be open to hearing other people’s opinions and perspectives instead of rejecting them outright just because we don’t like what we see or hear.

It’s an exercise in humility that’s well worth the effort.

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