Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Who do you listen to?

A popular post from February 2008

By Julie Wright

In tenth grade I had an English teacher who, for whatever reason, determined to hate me. This was the year I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. This was the year I really knew in the marrow of my bones that I could be a writer. I was fifteen.

My teacher didn't have the same marrow-in-the-bones feeling about me. He took a short story idea I'd outlined for an assignment, and told me it would never work. "Very few authors pull off the passage of years in one book--let alone a short story. You can't do this." His red scribble on the top of my outline made my stomach sink into my shoes, and made my confidence slip into the well of despair.

But I was stubborn.

I determined he was wrong. After all . . . he'd never been published, what did he know? I wrote the story, submitted it to the school writing contest, and won first place. I even beat out the seniors.

Feeling proud of myself (and rich with the 100 bucks I had in my pocket from prize money), I took the story to my grandmother. She loved me. She would tell me how wonderful I was.

Except she didn't.

She really loved me, and loved me enough to be brutal. Hard love sucks rocks sometimes. She told me how to change the story, how to make it better, how to make it work.

She told me not to give the story back to her to read until I fixed it.

I fixed it. It took me 297 pages to make it right, but I fixed it. She'd already passed away. She never got to see it complete and right.

The lesson learned? Ignore the comments that shatter your belief in yourself and accept the comments that will improve you, even when they hurt to hear.

There will be voices shouting at you from all sides when you start writing. There will be the blind love voices who tell you you're brilliant, even if your story needs a major overhaul. There will be the hurtful voices who work to undermine your security in yourself. There will be the demon voices whispering the cacophonous words, "You can't do this."

Then there will be the hard love voices . . . the voices with your best interest in mind. The editorial voices that say, "You can do this. Don't give up, but make it right."

Where you end up as a writer depends on what voice you choose to listen to.

Who are you listening to?


Candace E. Salima said...

Good story, good advice, good point.

Tamra Norton said...

And I LOVED those 297 pages!!!

Heather B. Moore said...

Great blog, Julie. I hope we are all listening to the editorial voices :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Julie, let me tell you something cool about grandmas. The minute they get to the other side, they turn around and start pulling strings on our behalf. She was right there when you finished that book. She's not only read it, she cheered you on the whole way and is still doing it. My grandma's the same way.

Crystal Collier said...

Love it! Even so, it can be hard to listen to the critical voices even of those who love us, but that's part of being a writer, eh? A true writer. We're looking to improve, not be flattered. =)