This week, I confronted my angst around feedback. I engaged with the subject, two years ago, on the first night of a creative writing class. Back then, the thought of reading out my work in front of others was hard enough. I can still vividly remember the dread and excitement that tumbled through me, at their reaction to the few hundred words I had sweated blood over. To my surprise, my little story about the dangerous crime boss trapped in the body of a chinchilla, received some laughter and positive comments. Ironically, given my fear, it’s the reason why I went in the first place. Initially, I asked family and friends for help. Unwittingly, placing them in an awkward position of asking them to be critical whilst never, ever hurting my feelings. Here, I could seek honesty from strangers. I got what I wanted. My feedback, thus far, has been varied. I tend to read out what I think I’ve written and not what is actually typed on the page. If I make a mistake, it’s always consistent; littered not just on the first page but every page thereafter.
I learned that feedback is invaluable.
Despite the belly flutters; I learned that feedback is invaluable. Every comment is a learning experience. As the creator, you are too close to your work to remain impartial. Although, my Inner Critic, loved my tempestuous relationship with feedback, regularly whispering confidence killers into my ear. One evening, our homework was to write a piece inspired by a place of nature. The following week, I read out a short story called ‘Water.’ “You should submit that to Glasgow Women’s Library Dragon’s Pen” my tutor said. So, encouraged by someone with more experience than me, I did just that. A month later, I got an e-mail confirming that I would not be a finalist but they would like to use an extract of my submission. I was ecstatic. Even more so when my tutor explained “You got to the long list.” The stirrings of confidence blossomed. Six months later, the story had developed into a fantasy series that I read out every week. So, when my tutor asked if I intended to submit to a publisher, I was ready to answer the question. Yes, I wanted to. The fire in my belly had been lit. I could do this, if I learned to subdue my Inner Critic.
There is no halfway house in creativity. Good feedback can foster confidence just as bad can destroy it. The thought stayed at the back of my mind, jumping into the air frantically, trying to get my attention. As much as I had gotten comfortable with reading out my work in a high school classroom, I was terrified of feedback I could receive outside. As a creative person, you want people to like your creations. Otherwise, why else would you share your work? Some write for pure pleasure, without thought or desire to do anything with it. For myself, I seek validation. I need to find my audience. How will I ever know unless I am willing to take a chance and put myself out there?
My transition was triggered by a random thought; join Twitter. I had been lurking for a while, looking at other writer’s profiles with a mixture of awe and envy. Then, one day, I finally did it. Social media forces you to play well with others in a virtual playground. I use it as a tool for motivation, tweeting about what I’m planning to achieve. Twitter is invaluable for connecting with other writers and publishers. I’ve found it to be lucky. I had a blog published by Women’s Writers, Women Books after seeing a tweet one Sunday afternoon asking for blog submissions. A spark lit and I decided to go for it. I finally understood that if I wanted anyone to like my work, I had to believe in its validity myself.
Even fictional characters need a confidence boost. EL James’s Anastasia Steele had her own Inner Goddess. Remember the scene in ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ when she warns the sleek, sophisticated architect to keep her nasty claws away from Christian? Whilst part of Anastasia feared going to head to head with the other woman, her Inner Goddess revelled in the confidence boost it gave her; mentally running around an arena to the applause of a crowd. Yes, even Mrs Grey, at a time of emotional angst, needed a cheer squad.
your Inner Critic is banished to a dark corner.
It will happen to you, you will recognise the moment your Inner God or Goddess is alive and well, whilst your Inner Critic is banished to a dark corner. For myself, I took a leap of faith and clicked the ‘send’ button a few hours ago. I’m hopeful, choosing to believe that someone out there will find my story as enthralling as I do and be willing to take a chance on it. In the meantime, I will keep doing what I do best; writing. So if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; to revive your Inner God or Goddess when you need that extra confidence boost. After all, it worked out well for Anastasia didn’t it? Believe in your dreams and be prepared to take a chance on yourself.
I just did.