Word count: 361 Reading time: 1-2 minutes
Paul Theroux reviewed Erica Jong’s novel Fear of Flying in a similar tone: “This crappy novel, misusing vulgarity to the point where it becomes purely foolish, picturing women as a hapless organ animated by the simplest ridicule, and devaluing imagination in every line…represents everything that is to be loathed in American fiction today.”
That’s the thing about writing – no matter how good you are, someone will disapprove and will not mind broadcasting their contempt. It’s very much a leap of faith to work and hope that someone, some day, somewhere, will eventually value what has taken you months or years to produce.
When you decide to write, you have to grow a thick hide so that people’s thoughtless comments don’t stop you in your tracks. I gave one of my first short stories to an online critique group and an American writer replied, in clearly challenging tones, that he’d never heard of the bird called a crimson rosella. Because that one detail was inauthentic to him, he took it as grounds to tear apart the rest of the work. I shrank at his criticism – for a little while. Then I quit the group and continued writing for the benefit of one close friend and my darling husband. Nervously I sent the next two stories to a competition where they received minor awards. The point is, if I hadn’t been resilient and just a little bit brave, I might have stopped writing altogether.
Imagine if Dylan Thomas had let Amis’s criticism stop him or if Jong had tossed writing because of Theroux’s fine sensibilities. Maybe you’re the next literary sensation but how will you know if you don’t just jump in and do it? And keep doing it…
Soren Kierkegaard said, “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose one’s life.”
Do unkind comments from any of your early readers haunt you still? What helps you dare to continue?
Photos by: Oleg Kozlov (above) & Kafusfoto