In open forums such as blogs, I’m not interested in knocking other writers. Their purposes vary–sharing information, expressing themselves, conducting business, digging into a niche, making friends, having fun without the pressure, etc. If I compliment, it’s honest. However, I may offer a different point of view in a polite comment. I do not shower sites with “likes” and meaningless praise to collect followers, though this era of publishing demands them.
Whether writers self-publish or submit to an agent/press, there is a market reality for most. I’ve worked on the other side; publishers need to make a buck. Most have margins that tighten yearly. Even if a writer produces solid work, the chances of turning a profit diminish if the market is slim to none.
Publishing is not for the faint-hearted. Only a handful of writers earn a living from books. Sure, it’s an emotional journey, but “ego can sometimes get in the way.”
I worked in publishing for 20+ years. Nevertheless, that does not guarantee success for my pet projects. A book published in the US is up against 300,000+ pieces of other writers’ passions. A rare exception is Amanda Hocking’s story.
When I analyzed manuscripts, I didn’t sugar coat. It was important to point out what worked without heaping meaningless adjectives. My goal was to provide a thorough, constructive review in a civilized, albeit compact, manner. If anybody found honesty brutal–too bad. There is more empathy in truth than false stroking.
Anyone who is serious about writing does not depend on the kindness of strangers, friends, and family. Okay, I ask a few trusted individuals for their thoughts on my copy. In fact, my niece’s advice just prevented my going down a slippery slope. It’s fine to share on LinkedIn and listen to group members. They often offer useful ideas (e.g., style, tone, voice, structure, pacing). However, criticism that dwells on punctuation, spelling, and mechanics without addressing content falls short.
Feedback from a professional editor, however terse, is a godsend. An editor of longstanding will read my book before I submit.
Self-honesty is a good policy. For example, I like to write poetry but do not kid myself. Only three journals have accepted my work. I studied with two gifted poets but learned just enough to be dangerous, not particularly talented. They maintained strict standards. Engaging in this highly disciplined genre informs me as a writer of prose (e.g., development of imagery, beats). Free verse is not a free-for-all. In fact, it’s difficult to master. I would not claim ownership.
In my mid-twenties, I worked for an exacting manager at an in-house advertising agency. He did not dish out flaky happiness. He forced me to redo my first copywriting assignment multiple times. The seventh was the charm.
A Teflon psyche? Now that’s a good thing. To flip a cliché–if I didn’t stand the heat in a professional kitchen, the flames would have burned me alive. I get up plenty of mornings, look in the mirror, and say, “Get over yourself.” Then I might produce something better than yesterday’s precious copy.
Know thyself? Here’s a writer who does and found his peace: “Competition and Writing” by Eric Sonnenschein.
Look for Eric’s thoughtful posts on LinkedIn. In addition, you’ll find his novels, collected essays (Making Up for Lost Time and All over the Place: Essays from A to Z), and other works on his website and Goodreads. Currently, Eric is finishing Mad Nomad, a novel about the Peace Corps in the Middle East. If you want to learn the art of the essay, read Eric’s collections. His work delivers; his creative nonfiction sings. No fluff. Just smart.