The Need to Improve

On the weekends, my intellectual father will often send an email filled with links to interesting articles he has read and music that he is currently listening to. Some of it I skim over (similar to skimming headlines in a newspaper), and sometimes I’ll find a gem and voraciously devour it and discuss the topic with him further.

This past weekend, he sent me a BBC article, Why Even The Best Feedback Can Bring Out the Worst In Us. We inherently reject criticism even if it is to our own benefits. We often automatically deflect the criticism or point out the flaws in someone else’s work in order to make ourselves feel better. By the end of the article, it suggested that we build an armor of self-esteem so that we can accept and use the criticism we face to our advantage.

This article is especially relevant for any writer or artist. The bulk of our work is receiving criticism on ‘the masterpieces’ we have produced. The successful ones instinctually know not to take the criticism personally, but use it constructively in order to hone their skills and progress in the field. The ones who do not make it (either finish a story or gain acceptance by a publisher) take the criticism personally and fall into deep despair.

In How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, he mentioned, “Many people begin their criticism with sincere praise followed by the word ‘but’ and ending with a critical statement.” For the record, I am just as guilty of this as any other reader. I have lived by the sandwich form of critiquing: mask a negative comment between two positive affirmations. Dale Carnegie countered this negative equation with, “This could be easily overcome by changing the word ‘but’ to ‘and.’ Pile on the praise and the writer will “try to live up to our expectations.” For example, a comment could be “I love the way you tried varying your sentence structure in this paragraph, and it’ll be even better when you master the rule of commas!”

When critiquing a piece of writing, I don’t know if an editor can simply not correct errors and give all praise, but Dale Carnegie makes a great point of keeping the comments more inspirational and positive so the receiver doesn’t feel weighed down by the negative commentary.

I think of critiques as valuable lessons and a way to gather more ideas for my work. The comments made on a writer’s work are purely suggestions. I think it’s important to keep in mind that at the end of the day, the writing is still yours and you can pick and choose which comments to use and which comments to trash. They are not permanent changes to your text just because it is someone else’s suggestion.

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The Wandering Writer

Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read my first post. I’m so excited to share this journey with you. Writing can be such a lonely endeavor, and we as writers can be severely critical of ourselves. It is important to connect with others to encourage, inspire, and learn.

So let’s jump in!

The title of today’s blog post is appropriately entitled Wandering Writer because I found, after a number of unproductive years, that getting out, or carving out a strict ‘writing zone’ in your home is critical in achieving any writing goals. My favorite places to write are the libraries close by and sometimes a coffee shop, though I feel obligated to purchase something in order to use the space and the internet connection. Because I live in a very small space (I bought a trailer two years ago in honor of the tiny house movement), I have found it extremely difficult to declare a section of my place a writing zone. There is also something about being out in public that keeps me on task. I don’t feel like I can procrastinate on Netflix, Facebook, or Pinterest when I’m sitting at a table or cubicle. Also, there’s not as much distraction in these places. I don’t feel pressured to face the pile of dishes that glare at me from the kitchen sink, or the pile of laundry sitting next to my bed. I am forced to face that ominous blank page.

I also equate home with fun and relaxation. Who can be productive when you’re sitting on a comfy couch, under a fuzzy blanket, and listening to the whirr of the newly loaded dishwasher? I can’t. At home, I feel entitled to put off those pesky to-do lists and simply relax. Netflix seems to beckon much louder from home than it does from the library or coffee shop.

I have also found that it is important to physically schedule some writing time into my day. If I say, “I should,” that simply does not give me enough motivation to face the writing. I phrase it as “I am going to write at this time for at least this long,” just like going to work, eating dinner, or working out. It is happening because it is habit and part of the daily schedule. There is no doubt that I have to do it.

Writing groups on Facebook are also great motivators and reminders that I should be working on my chosen craft. I am hoping Adelie Ink will join the ranks of said pages, but there are a number of great Facebook pages that post daily prompts, helpful articles, and reviews on new books recently published.

The inspiration and means are so easily attainable these days that it’s hard to find excuses NOT to write. I hope this post motivates you to get out, find a quiet nook, and get some writing done! Let me know! I want to hear from you.