Feedback: Fuel for my Creative Fire

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!

Anyway.

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?

Refilling the Well

The blank space on my October blog calendar looms and I ask myself what I have been doing in terms of my writing. Because I have not been writing—much.

For me that’s unusual, but I have been doing something that I think might be important for all of us creative types. It’s called refilling the well, and the expression seems to fit. Somewhere in the groundwater that is my subconscious, there seems to be a need to recover from the constant turmoil that is the writing process. Between morning words, plot creation, character building, revising, and critiquing— all activities that seem to demand that I reach deep inside myself to find my own reactions and my own story, hidden though it may be, I always seem to find enough raw material there to keep going. I am constantly amazed to discover what is down there, but also fearful that one day I may go to the well and find it dry.

Running the well dry is not an option for me, as I’ve spent too much of my life not writing. But it does become overwhelming at times to think that, if I want to keep writing, I need to come up with new raw material every single day.

Thus, I indulge in unwinding these tensions by simply not attempting to create at all. For a week, it was enough to simply enjoy the limitless sky above my head, contemplate the unknowable depths of the water below, breathe in the salty air and let it penetrate into the pores of my skin. Sometimes it is enough to simply be alive.

(Photograph courtesy of me, and the San Juan Islands, Washington USA)