I’ve been writing for a long time. I was 10 when I first decided that I wanted to be a writer.
I had some small successes as a child and always did well in English at school. I was encouraged and told that I was talented.
So when I began an MA in Creative Writing, I had high expectations. But after some positive feedback in workshops, I was quickly deflated when my marks weren’t as good as I had hoped.
It turns out that I wasn’t the brilliantly talented writer I imagined myself to be when I was younger.
But that’s okay.
In the eight years since I completed my MA, I’ve written on and off and with different levels of commitment. I’ve drafted two novels and started this blog, and I’ve written endless marketing copy and press releases for work.
Looking back, I can see all the things that I was doing wrong. The feedback from my degree doesn’t sting as much as it used to, because I can see that my writing has improved and my understanding of what it takes to be a writer has deepened. I’m prepared to work harder to succeed.
Writing is a challenging pursuit, made especially hard by its isolated nature.
When you first start out, you have no way of knowing how good your work is. Most people share their work with friends and family, who are inclined to give positive, but not very constructive, comments.
And when you do eventually receive some negative remarks, they can be devastating. It’s easy to be angry, to deny the truth of the constructive criticism. To argue that literature is subjective and this person’s opinion isn’t necessarily right.
We’ve all done it.
But if you close yourself off to negative feedback, you’re denying yourself the opportunity to grow.
We all want to be good at our hobbies and passions and jobs. But skill develops over time. It’s often said it takes 10,000 hours to be truly expert at something. That may or may not be accurate, but the principle has a ring of truth to it.
The fact is, the harder you work at your manuscripts or poems, the better they will become.
If you open yourself up to feedback, your work will improve. If you refuse to listen, you’ll ultimately produce a piece of work that isn’t as good as it might have been.
I would love to have been one of the stars of my MA Creative Writing; the one everyone knew would become a published author. But everyone’s path is different.
It would have been easy to give up after realising that I wasn’t as good a writer as I thought. I toyed with the idea often.
But ultimately, I love writing too much.
And slowly over time, I’ve learned to handle rejection and criticism, because I can use it to improve. Instead of feeling depressed and ignoring the comments I’ve been given, I’ve used them to make my work stronger.
Perhaps I didn’t take as much away from my MA as I might have liked to. But looking back, I can see that those early lessons have sunk in and they have had an effect. I just needed a bit of time to realise it.
Writing is one of those pastimes that take years to perfect. There is so much to learn and few people are brilliant when they first begin.
But you don’t have to be. You just have to be willing to take a risk and put yourself out there. You have to keep writing and ignore that voice that tells you to give up.