As the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted, yesterday’s post was rather like Douglas Adam’s ‘Mostly Harmless: the Fifth Volume in the Increasingly Inaccurately-Titled Hitch-Hiker’s Trilogy:
Why? Because I said it had seven tips when in fact it had nine. Once I’d published it I kept thinking of more things to put in and having edited it about nine times I couldn’t be bothered changing the title and decided anyway it was more fun to have a title at odds with the content, thus violating one of my own top tips. It’s always more fun to break your own rules… but who knew I could say so much about blogging? I always tend to undervalue my own knowledge and expertise because it doesn’t seem very Thingish: by which I mean it’s Not Very Technical or Definite; it doesn’t have Rules or Widgets or Boxes to Tick. And we live in a society that values Boxes and things which are Thingish. But once I started writing I found I actually had a great deal of knowledge and expertise to pass on and others seemed to find it useful too, which is Highly Gratifying – and in accordance with Tip No. 1 – Be Yourself.
Of course that easy-sounding phrase is anything but: in order to be yourself you must first find out what that is; and it may be that people you love or want to impress don’t actually like it very much. There’s always risk involved in doing anything public: many people have commented to me over the years that they wish they could write a blog but they’re afraid of what people will say. I, too, know that fear: I used to look at the comments with dread in case someone was being rude or abusive – and sometimes they were. But you learn how to deal with this stuff (oh no, I feel some more tips coming on) just as we all do on social media. Nope, there’s no avoiding them – here come some more tips:
Tip 1: Criticism Hurts
Yes. It hurts. I don’t believe there is a writer alive (or dead) who has not experienced the pain of adverse criticism. Some deal with it by getting angry, others by hiding away until the hurt has passed, a few by taking revenge. I don’t have a short-cut to pain-free criticism I’m afraid, except to say that it does get better. Try not to react immediately: give yourself some space; talk to family and friends, eat some chocolate. Remind yourself of how many great writers were criticised and rejected in their time and the pain will pass.
Tip 2: Get Some Distance
A series of devastatingly cutting responses will go through your mind, each cleverer than the last. Resist. Everyone can detect the taste of sour grapes, no matter how eloquently expressed, and you diminish your own power by indulging in them. First, try to get some distance; then try to judge the comment on its merits. Does the writer have a point? Is there anything (however unpalatable) you can learn from this? Are they – though it might kill you to say so – right?
Tip 3: Right or Wrong, Make it Work for You
Whether the comment has a point or is total garbage, make it work for you. Live well is the best revenge, so says the proverb; so if they have a point, take it and improve your work. If they don’t have a point, let their sheer wrongness spur you on to better things. Activate your inner stroppiness: don’t let anyone push you off course.
Tip 4: Don’t Give Up
The only consistent piece of advice I’ve received in all my years of writing is, ‘Don’t give up.’ Keep going; persist; keep writing. However regular your practice, stick with it and don’t let anyone stop you. If someone says you’ll never make it, take that word ‘never’ as a red rag to a bull and think what the hell do they know? Don’t engage in argument: it’s a waste of energy. Just get back to your desk and carry on.
Tip 5: What If I’m Not a Writer?
No-one can tell you what you are; that’s true, but it’s even truer that no-one can tell you what you are not. Only you can discover that – and if in the course of writing, you discover that this is not really who you are, so what? I’ve tried a hundred things and discovered they’re not who I am; and in the process you’ve found something out about yourself and that’s valuable. Finding out who you aren’t is a step on the road to finding out who you are. Which leads me to my final tip…
Tip 6: Be Yourself.
I think we touched on this one already…