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Feedback: Fuel for my Creative Fire

July 3, 2012

In my quest to banish self-doubt it is once again time to join my fellow intrepid writers for a monthly expedition into my deepest fears. We call ourselves the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and are led by the fearless and inspirational Alex J. Cavanaugh.

If you’d like to join the fun, hop on over to the linky. We post the first Wednesday of every month, and it’s a fabulous group of writers.

This month I really felt that I’d made some real progress in this area.

One of my biggest obstacles in my writing has always been sharing my work with others, both fellow writers and regular folks in general. I can trace this back to unsupportive family, incredulous friends, and most of all, my own negative self-talk. This month, however, I did something concrete to turn this around.

Insecure Writers behold: Gaze with awe and wonder upon this screenshot, depicting the latest small step in my battle against insecurity.

What is it you ask?

This is my story, ‘The Tempest’s Serenade’, in a private queue awaiting critique, and having already received several critiques by some of my favorite writers.

I have been a member of Critique Circle for about a year and a half already. Until the beginning of last month, I had only submitted a grand total of three stories. Each time I did, it was a harrowing experience for me. I would spend days and days going over each piece in great detail, making sure each word was exactly the right one, and that each sentence was a different in structure from the last. I would agonize over character descriptions, and throw up my hands in disgust over big blocks of narrative that I knew were pure ‘telling’, but couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to transform into ‘showing.’ I would scrutinize each plot point. I would ask myself, “Did I end the chapter in the right place? Do my characters feel natural and realistic? Is the setting consistent?”

Completely overwhelmed but determined to overcome this obstacle, I spent the night before each story went up for review tossing and turning, certain that my spaghetti sentences and raw dialogue meatballs would be met with polite rejection. Then, after getting no critiques at all for my nonsensical drivel, perhaps one brave soul would take on my story, and, in the kindest possible way, tell me to please stop writing, and take up something useful, like making my own peanut butter, or knitting socks for my cat.

I have to confess, I had this whole post almost ready to go, when I deleted the second half of it.

I had written all about how these great critiques have added fuel to my creative fire, and how I had finally overcome the fire-breathing dragon that stood between me and novel revision greatness.

Then, a nudge from one of my favorite critiquers asking me when my next chapter was going to post gave me that all too familiar knot in my stomach.

Oh. Wait.

I have to post more stories?

My battle to overcome self-doubt continues.

At Critique Circle a particularly tough-minded bunch of writers have organized into an elite group of critiquers known as the Thick Skin Club. They have declared that because they seek honest feedback, they promise not to take offense at any comments that might be misconstrued as hurtful. I have great admiration for their valor, and am also desirous of honest feedback, however I am certain that the Thick Skin Club would take one look at the quivering mess of my ego, and slam the door in my face.

I’m a much better fit over here at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!


Why is it, in spite of seeing great benefits and enjoying a positive response, that sharing my work makes my heart race and hands sweat?

Is it because I want no less than perfection, and will never, no matter how hard I work, achieve it?

Is it because I care about this deeply, and rejection would cut me to my core?

Probably all these things, but with the Insecure Writers by my side, I am determined to persevere anyway.

Does getting feedback on your writing make you nervous? How have critiques helped move your writing forward, and fueled your creative fire? Do you think you’ll ever be a member of the Thick Skin Club?

  1. July 3, 2012 6:27 pm

    It’s funny b/c I get really excited about critiques from strangers or friends and have that thick skin b/c I know their feedback will make my story better. But when it’s just a reader, not a critiquer, like in my family or circle of friends, I get super nervous! Guess I better get it over with since my first novel will be released later this year, lol. Great post:-) You can do this!!

    • July 4, 2012 9:37 am

      Thank you for the encouragement! Just recognizing that I have an issue with this has really helped me start to overcome it.
      I’m getting there!

  2. July 3, 2012 9:00 pm

    I am with Jamie. I love getting feedback, even on my First Draft (thanks Kirsten 🙂 ) Though I have yet to share anything with family. But I can see exactly how it would terrify some folks. It is not that I am so secure that I don’t care what people say about my writing. Believe me every time I send out something for someone else to look at, I am petrified. It is just that I either get very positive feedback or I get a critique that helps me improve my story. In either case it encourages me to keep on going. Great job Kirsten, keep at it.

    • July 4, 2012 9:41 am

      Hi Papabear,
      Thanks in part to you, I have made huge progress in the area of sharing my work! Right now, I choose who reads my stuff very carefully, but I think as I gain confidence I might be able to expand that short list.
      I think it really is a matter of taking many small steps in the direction one wants to go in. 🙂

  3. July 3, 2012 9:08 pm

    I love critiques from family, friends, and my writer’s group even though I get extremely nervous if I am reading out loud. (Ladies and gents, you have not lived until you read the steamy sex scene you just wrote to your spouse. Yikes!) Their honest input always inspires me. As far as The Thick Skin Club, I’m not ready to critique without my safety net. Not yet, anyway.

    • July 4, 2012 9:44 am

      Someday, perhaps, I will be able to report that I am a member of the elite, the few, the thick-skinned, in fact I probably need to be if I’m to consider publishing!

      Oddly, reading stuff out loud isn’t as intimidating to me as posting it somewhere. Maybe because I can see my audience’s reaction to my words right away?
      That sex scene though … I don’t know if I could ever do that!!

  4. July 4, 2012 12:41 am

    Excellent post. I ask myself when I would be ready to submit a WIP for critique? Ever? Even to my friends and loved ones, I don’t think I am ready. I think with me its an attitude I need to develop. I consider it a journey and I am having fun with the ups and down. I will know when I am ready – when I feel comfortable about letting go. Thanks once again.

    • July 4, 2012 9:50 am

      I think you are absolutely right to wait until you are ready. I was exactly the same way. 🙂 I wrote for myself, though that’s not to say I wasn’t open to learning new things. I just wasn’t ready to present the results to the world.

      Then one day, I dared myself to post an excerpt on the Nanowrimo page. I actually left it up there too. 😉 Little by little putting my words out there for others to see became easier and easier. It’s still scary, as you can see from my post, but remembering that each step I take brings me closer to feeling comfortable about it helps a lot.

      You really will know when you’re ready, IMO. 🙂

  5. July 4, 2012 3:09 am

    Hi 🙂

    Just stopping by from the IWSG 🙂

    Oh wow, go you!!!!! Well done in uploading your work for critique!!!!!

    I don’t like sharing my work, but, in January I joined a writing class where, once a month we have to read out our work *gulp* That was a bit of a shock I can tell you. But, I’m getting used to it, and, now, I can really see the benefits. It’s great getting feedback and I’ve changed some things because of what my fellow writers have said. Their advice has been invaluable 🙂

    Good luck honey xx

    • July 4, 2012 9:53 am

      I swing back and forth between loving the feedback and dreading the idea of putting my awkward prose out there. But I post my stuff anyway.
      Sometimes the rational grown-up has to prevail over the scaredy cat!

  6. July 4, 2012 8:40 am

    I haven’t had a problem receiving critiques so good for you for overcoming the fear of doing that. My problem now is just sitting down and doing the damn writing. Goodluck!

    • July 4, 2012 9:56 am

      You are so lucky this isn’t a problem for you! Critiques are so helpful, that I really need to get used to having them done.
      The writing, on the other hand, is easy for me. 😉
      I guess we are all different, but in the end we all find our way! Good luck with the writing. 🙂

  7. July 4, 2012 9:22 am

    I feel like you pave the way for me with your writing and revision journey so I have something to aspire too – although I must say that the thought of putting my work up for critique terrifies me but it is something I am ready to do now…well once I revise the thing. I’m trying not to spread myself too thinly and just get the revising done first but I’m DYING to start this new WIP. Will I never have patience? haha I have shared a few scenes with… this boy (fiance sounds too strange for me still) so he understood why I was stuck in my head most days. I got a little bit annoyed when he asked to read more because I assumed he was just being polite and supportive! I eventually gave in with great difficulty. I think he really wanted to know what happened next…strange. In regards to being in the Thick Skin Club…I yearn for honest feedback but at the same time I know it will be a little bit of a battering to my soul. I’m good with rejection, having audition of acting parts where rejection is part of the game…but when in comes to my WIP I’m a bit more protective of it. Maybe because it is more personal and close to my heart, I don’t know 🙂

    • July 4, 2012 10:08 am

      Aww, that’s so sweet of you to share. I feel that I’ve been where you are with this story and I think you’re feeling exactly the way I did. So, not to worry. When the time comes, you’ll be ready.

      I’ve been revising for quite a long time now, and my story has been through a lot just to get it to the point where someone can see it. I still wonder if it isn’t too weird, and we’ll see what the next round of critiques gets me.
      Earlier in this revision though, (last year) there was no way I could have let the story out yet. I had to work some things out on my own first.
      As far as honest feedback, I don’t happen to think that being sensitive and being honest are mutually exclusive.Trying to get into a writer’s head when I give feedback has taught me a lot about my own writing, and I think, helped the writer more than giving a blanket ‘this doesn’t work for me’ comment would.

      Keep at your revision! Staying focused is really important, and something I actually need to do myself right now. 😉

  8. Leslie permalink
    July 4, 2012 10:54 am

    I’m terrified of critiques – it was actually the topic of my IWSG today. I’ve never intentionally put work out for one. I have some stories on my blog – but never “Please look at this and tell me what needs changing.”

    I think it’s fantastic that you have! And that you’ve gained a positive experience from it!

    • July 4, 2012 11:22 am

      I never thought I’d be able to get past my fear of critique, but with the help of writer friends I’ve made some huge progress. Putting stories up on the blog is actually a good step in that direction. I did that as well here. Doing the edits and seeing the words on the screen was good practice!
      I plan to do some more, because it was actually a lot of fun! 🙂

  9. July 4, 2012 4:37 pm

    Aloha Kirsten,

    I agree with those folks who say they look forward to critiques because ultimately helps move WIP/writing forward…

    I would add that if at all possible, you should attend a writer’s conference (if you haven’t already) as there is nothing like sitting in a room of strangers and getting some criticism – AND praise for the work you created 🙂

    PS… thanks so much for the kind comments on my post today – I really appreciate them 🙂

    Happy Fourth of July to you and yours 🙂

    • July 5, 2012 5:28 pm

      Hi Mark,
      It’s always good to see you here. 🙂
      I really like your idea about getting critiques from people in a real world situation. I don’t know if a writer’s conference is possible for me right now, but I am part of a great writer’s group. I might have to suggest we do something like that.

      I think I would positively melt with joy if someone were to say they liked something I wrote!

  10. July 5, 2012 1:21 pm

    Critiques from strangers can be scary. That you had someone eagerly awaiting your next chapter was great though!

    • July 5, 2012 5:32 pm

      Hi Alex,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route. 🙂

      You’re absolutely right. I am so sure that my writing is in need of improvement, that I hadn’t considered the fact that someone actually wanting to read it is really cool!

      IWSG has been a great way to connect with writers who are just like me: insecure and not afraid to admit it. Thanks for putting this together!

  11. July 6, 2012 11:34 pm

    Knitting socks for your cat! lol Too funny! Best of luck and I hope the chapters receive lots of critiques. 🙂

    • July 8, 2012 1:46 pm

      Hi lexacain,
      Thanks for stopping by A Scenic Route!

      My chapters did receive some really nice critiques, and even better, I was inspired to put up a few more chapters. 🙂
      So, since my writing continues to go well, for now my poor cat will remain sockless. 😉

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