All successful writers have one thing in common, I’ve noticed. And perhaps this carries on to other careers as well. Successful writers are selfish. Now before you flip out and start shaking your fist at me whilst screaming, “I’m not selfish!”, hear me out. I don’t mean selfish in that we never think of others or think of ourselves to the detriment of those around us. No – I mean when it comes to our writing we worry about ourselves and what we’re doing.
In this I mean that when I’m writing a book I don’t sit around obsessively wondering what my friends in my critique group are writing. I don’t worry what other people will think. I initially don’t stop to think what readers are going to think either. Or my enemies, or my family, or the guy down the street. When I’m writing fiction it’s about me telling a story coming from my imagination. When I’m writing the spirituality stuff it’s about sharing experiences and ideas in a coherent manner. It has nothing to do with anyone else – not during the initial writing process anyway.
It becomes more about the reader during the editing process. Will the reader understand the message I’m trying to convey? Will the reader be pulled into the story? Is the plot solid? Even then, I’m still not thinking whether or not Aunt Frannie will approve of my next book or if my enemies will criticize it by virtue of its mere existence. Why? Because I don’t care. I don’t write for the people don’t approve of my subject matter or who will hate everything I write because they hate me as a person. I don’t write for the people who disagree with my subject matter by mere virtue of their opinion or who might disagree with the manner in which I present it. I don’t write for people who vehemently disagree with my ideas either.
I write for
A. Myself and
B. The people who enjoy my stories and who have found my spiritual titles inspiring for their own spiritual paths and growth.
Nothing more, nothing less. Even if I never made a single red cent writing, I’d still write because it’s who I am.
Some writers, it’s true, write for money. As a matter of fact I know a lot of writers who write because they think it’s a quick buck. They meet a writer and they say, “Hey, that person is making money hand over fist and I can write a book, too!” Both often erroneous assumptions (and the reason why some people who have a book out aren’t selling any). Some people don’t start writing until they’re adults. I’m one of those writers who was penning stories at age seven and who wrote her first novel at age ten. I wanted to be a writer all throughout my school career, including college. I even got a degree in it. I’m a writer because I always have been. For me, writing is like breathing. It’s my nervous tick, my escape, my passion. I write for myself first, and my readers second. I’m selfish when it comes to my writing but I think that’s why I am able to finish what I write and get it published. It’s also the reason I am able to make a living doing what I love to do.
Writers who stop to worry about what other people will think (if you’re writing controversial stuff) or who are worried about what their friends are writing get locked in a stalemate of forever-editing and/or never finishing anything. They let criticism from those who disagree with their ideas or criticism from those who don’t like their books dictate what they write and how they write it. In this I’m not saying you can’t take criticism to heart when writing, after all, some criticism is constructive and can improve your work. I’m also not saying you shouldn’t accept editorial input because ALL writers need editors. We do – even Nora Roberts and Stephen King.
I’m just saying don’t allow unfounded criticism (the adage *consider the source* is key here) to keep you from writing, editing, finishing or submitting a piece of writing. For example – if your best friend tells you that your latest short story is crap is she saying it because she really finds problems with it? Or is she just jealous and does she have a habit of discouraging or criticising you? If it’s the latter, that’s criticism you disregard. If the criticism is from someone who doesn’t like you, disregard. If someone’s biggest pet peeve about your work is your ideas don’t agree with theirs – disregard. If someone criticizes you as a person (especially if you’ve never met them), disregard. If someone criticises a huge plot hole and provides supporting evidence (i.e. an in depth discussion of the story including page numbers) listen up!
Some critics are constructive and can give you point by point reasons (with page numbers) and possible ideas to fix said problems. The rest of the critics, chances are, are untalented hacks who couldn’t write their way out of a bag. Again – I recommend the movie Heckler for authors who are having trouble with their critics. Remember that you always have the choice to take criticism or leave it. How criticism effects you is a choice. Selfish, successful writers know when to swallow their pride and take the criticism to heart, and when to laugh and take it with a grain of salt.