I wasn’t planning to write this today. Not at all.
But I hate seeing people tormenting themselves over what their inner demons are whispering to them, and even more so when I can see all that anguish is undeserved.
Know what I’m talking about? The Writer’s Critique Club. Any Writer’s Critique Club. Incidentally, if you are part of a club known by this exact name, it was a fluke – I just picked that title out of my writer’s hat.
I am a private person. I talk and laugh and joke with people, but my thoughts are my own, my battles are my own and my inner demons are something I’ve learned to tame by myself. I know when my inner critic’s voice is getting a little too loud and I have developed a good sense of direction and quick reflexes for when it needs a pillow stuffed in its big mouth.
The problem here is timescale. It took me months – no, it took me years to get to the stage of comfort and confidence in my own abilities that I have now. This isn’t something that can be achieved overnight.
There are new voices – sweet, brilliant, fragile authors – poking their heads out of the crowd every single day. They are clever, intuitive, original, funny and most of all – hard working and eager to learn.
They join Twitter and Facebook and every writer’s forum they can find. They have an open mind and all they ask is to be guided. They have a voice, they have a style, they have a story.
What slows them down is their inherent need to bow to experience. They need that gentle little shove towards the limelight.
And this is where it all falls flat for them.
As a member of many groups, some focused on beta-reading, some on editing, some on reviews, etcetera, I keep seeing the same trend. We go beyond our remit and morph into critics. We help, we show mistakes, we demand improvements. Yet, when they come, we’re still not satisfied.
We push, we quarrel, we critique. We tug one way and then the other, forcing the poor emerging author into a no-win situation. No matter what they choose, they know they will upset someone. The confidence they were aiming to build crumbles to dust before they can say ‘help me’.
Suddenly, their hard work seems to lead nowhere. And why? Because of Us, The Experienced Ones.
I’m not suggesting we should encourage aimlessly anyone who’s ever managed to put two words together. Not everyone will shine at writing, just like not everyone would do well at marathon running, or opera singing, or whatever profession you may choose to pick.
But encourage, and guide, and point the right direction is ALL we need to do. Let us stop before we stick that blade all the way into their hearts. Let us refrain from childish, less noble acts.
They are not our enemies. They are not the competition. They are one of us. It only takes one foot, wrongly placed, to squash that crisp young shoot and kill it.