day eight: do not write for the critic.

When a piece of music no one has ever written, or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom, or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges, and absorbs the impact - Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

I'm going to tell you a secret. 

When I'm writing a book, I aim for words that make me gasp. I want the dialogue that breathes poetry. I reach for descriptors that capture the absolute beauty of every day living. 

The sun and the way it moves across the sky, the way a rush of wind makes your skin pop with tiny bumps and feel alive, the way a single glance can alter your world forever. 

I want to write about that. I want to remind us how every moment — every sentence — every breath — has the potential to change our world and flip our lives sideways.

This is how I approach writing.

It's what works for me. 

I have critics. There are those who say I try too hard and that my books aren't ready to publish and it's not believable and my psychology is horrible and the content is horrific.

(And here's my biggest secret)

I do not write for them.  

Did you catch that? When I'm writing, I can't think about the critic. I can only think about the ones who understand my characters and love them the way I do. I can only pay attention to the way my heart is beating and whether or not I'm owning this story I know I'm meant to tell. Style is subjective. Plot points are a dime a dozen. 

Opinions are far-too numerous to hold in the palm of your hand.

Do not write for the critics. 

First, write for yourself. Write the story that makes you feel alive. Write the words that have you smiling as you type, not because of how groundbreaking they are (although they very well may be) but because you're absolutely taken with delight. 

If my characters are making me laugh as I write, I know I'm doing well. 
If my scenes are bringing tears to my eyes, I know I've hit the vein. 
If I can't remember writing down the words in front of me, I know I'm experiencing alchemy.

Do not write for the critics. 

Write for the ones who whisper their belief in you. Write for the ones who ask if you've gotten down any words today. Write for the ones who light up at the mention of you working on your book. Keep this audience small. One or two people max. Write to them, and only to them, and write for the joy of seeing your words on paper. 

Anything more and too many voices will cloud your vision.

When John Steinbeck wrote East of Eden, he wrote it for his sons. He did not set out to write a magnum opus, but it quickly became his greatest achievement as a writer. Emily Dickinson wrote on a 17 1/2 by 17 1/2 table with no expectation of publicity. 

I started Every Shattered Thing with the goal of putting to page something a girl my husband and I mentored experienced with her family. She knew about it. I wanted to write the story I hoped for her — the narrative I wished to speak into existence. 

A few chapters in and Stephanie took over. I did not know yet the power of words. I didn't know that emails expressing the book being so horrible they couldn't get past chapter two would send me reeling for months and dry the reservoir of words I held inside. I didn't know publishers and their no's would feel like punches to the gut. I didn't know reviews could make or break my day. 

I didn't know the temptation in defending the story you bled and cried over for years. 

If I did, I wouldn't have written.

Do not write for the critics. 

Write for you. Write for the one who believes in your story. 

Everyone else is noise.


Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing, including a PDF with the publishing calendar process I take myself through every time I write a book.

Posted on October 8, 2014 and filed under indie publishing.