The manuscript was painful to read, filled with mistakes that even most beginners wouldn’t make. I managed to find some positive things to say and offered helpful tips for improvement, but I still dreaded the possibility of crushing a newbie writer’s spirit.
Not long after returning the critiqued manuscript, I received a note from the author, thanking me for my feedback. She acknowledged that she had a lot of work to do but also assured me that she was ready to put in the time and effort. I’m sure she felt a bit discouraged and overwhelmed; who wouldn’t? But her obvious ability to move past that and focus on what she could do to improve prompted me think that she would eventually accomplish her dream, maybe not with this particular story, but with something. Despite the frustrations in critiquing this manuscript, I had a lot of respect for the author and looked forward to the next step in the critique process.
What a sharp contrast to an experience I had several years ago with a writer who responded to a set of comments with a rant about how sick she was of all the rewriting she had to do. (So far she had done one rewrite.) Why couldn’t she just publish her book? She was self-publishing, so she had the freedom to put her book out there whenever she wanted to, but didn’t she want to release a product that she could be proud of?
These two examples remind me what a difference attitude makes in the writing world. Saying writing requires a thick skin is an understatement (not to mention a cliché—oops). If we can’t handle an honest critique, how will we deal with repeat rejection, a long editing process, or a less-than-stellar review? What does “I’m so sick of rewriting?” say about one’s commitment to the craft? Then again, what do we gain from a willingness to do the hard work required to be a good writer?
How do you respond to the news that your work needs, well, work? What does your current attitude say about your commitment to excellence?
Commit today to doing everything in your power to maintain a teachable, professional, mature attitude, knowing that when difficult days come, the right attitude will keep you from giving up.