This is an article I wish I had written! It captures my thoughts exactly. Tell people, nicely, they suck, and they will get better. Sugar-coat a critique and you’re not doing them any favors. This article was written by Zarah Parker and can be seen at thememoirofawriter.com. Check out her work!
Let me explain.
When I first decided to pursue writing seriously (as in put my all into something that might not give me any return) all I wanted was someone to tell me that I was making the right decision. I didn’t know if I was good enough at writing to make it my career choice.
My entire way of thinking was wrong, but I’ll get back to that.
What I actually needed was someone to tell me my writing sucked. Because it did, and hey sometimes if I’m in a hurry it still does. (I’ve had to delete a few blog posts due to my hastiness.)
Pretending someone is better at something than they are is detrimental to their growth, especially while learning a craft. My biggest pet peeve in workshops are when people are so nice that the person whose work is getting critique thinks that their work was great…when it needed a lot of work. I don’t think being rude is the answer, but I think being kind while being honest is.
Which doesn’t happen a lot to young writers. Which might be surprising, but this is my own experience, it could have been different for you. Throughout my college workshops everyone was too scared to point out the flaws in a work, and when they did it was done so nicely that it was more of a ‘maybe you could change this, but you’re fine if you don’t.”
Once, a professor stopped me from commenting on the grammar of a short story. The entire story was atrocious, but I was trying to nicely point out that the grammar was so bad it was hard to read the story. (And to be honest grammar isn’t on the top of my list to criticize.) I overheard the student later boasting about how much everyone in class loved her story. Because we weren’t honest, she saw no need to fix her story.
I kind of wish someone had told me, “hey, your writing sucks.” Not to be cruel, but to push me. I don’t believe writers are born wordsmiths and it’s just natural to them, I believe it effort and hard work. When I was younger my writing sucked (I see that and wholly accept it now) but because no one pushed me to be better it took a lot longer for me to grow and become a better writer.
You suck at writing until you don’t. And I personally believe it’s a long road, but if you accept the fact that you haven’t written your best work, and you truly love writing, then it’ll push you because you’ll want to get better.
Before, when I wanted someone to reassure me that I was a good writer and making the right choice, I was setting myself up for disappointment. It isn’t that we should want reassurance of our skill, because skill is learned. What we need to be sure of is our love for the craft itself. If you aren’t willing to put a lot of time and energy into writing and strengthening your skill you won’t get a better result.
Now, writing as a hobby can make you a better writer, I’m only saying it will take longer. That’s fine, but if you call yourself a writer and you’re pushing toward publication, you need to continuously push yourself to get better. Don’t look for reassurance (it usually comes from people who don’t know what they’re talking about.)
It comes down to what most people will tell you – you yourself have to be your own motivator as a writer. And yes, that is one of the hardest parts of writing.
Don’t believe that you’re a great writer, believe that you have the willingness to be a great writer.