Sticks and stones can break my bones…

10 Feb

Actually, I never liked that saying. Why would I care about names hurting me if someone’s breaking my bones? But there is a point: people who are throwing the proverbial sticks and stones and names can’t hurt you if you don’t let them.

I have an inner circle of those I can trust and an outer circle of everyone else. And levels within those circles. In Walking in this World, Julia Cameron talks about camaraderie (a word that I can never spell correctly the first time, incidentally), and the importance of having the “right” people around you. Those who know how to be supportive while offering constructive feedback. Here’s an exercise to see which of the following people should be allowed into your inner circle of trust:

Scenario: You just finished your first novel and you show it to your friends/critique partners/family members/whoever for their thoughts. You know that it’s only a first draft and it needs editing, but you want their initial thoughts.

Candidate A: “Hmm. It’s okay. But it’d be better if you’d do a story about sheep castration, since you grew up on a sheep ranch. You should write what you know. Did I tell you I wrote a story once?”

Candidate B: “This is a piece of crap. I know you can write better than this.”

Candidate C: “Hey, I like where you’re going on this project. I think if you weave in some of your personal experiences with xxx it will make this piece stronger.”

Obviously, in this situation, Candidate C is the ideal choice (although it’s not a bad idea to keep the occasional Candidate B around to kick us in the butt when we need it–kidding!).

What it comes down to is trust. I’ve had plenty of exposure to people who’ve had little snarky comments to make about this or that, looking like they’re happy for you but really trying to find a way to get in a dig somehow.

Here’s how you deal with it. Keep those people —————> here. As far away from you as you can shove them (figuratively, I hope).Image

That doesn’t mean that other people can’t try to hurt you. They can. But it is up to you to keep these “you-aren’t-good-enough-aren’t-smart-enough-aren’t-talented-enough” naysayers at bay.

I’m lucky to have several wonderful people in my inner circle of trust, starting with my fellow Chicks. If it wasn’t for these girls, I would’ve been too chicken to venture into the outer world of writing. I have a wonderful critique group as well. Do I still hear comments from Bitter, Party of 1? Of course. But I just smile and say, “Okay,” (in my head it translates as, “whatever dude”) and move along. I don’t think about them again. It doesn’t bother me at all, because those comments don’t filter through to me.

Don’t let them filter through to you.

10 Responses to “Sticks and stones can break my bones…”

  1. Tracey Jane Smith February 10, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    Sheep castration. LOL Thanks for making me laugh about the very topic that’s brought me such grief in the past.

  2. Rena J Traxel February 11, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    I don’t understand how one writer could cut down another writer. I avoid those kinds of writers at all costs!

    • pursuingthemuse February 11, 2012 at 12:27 am #

      Me too, Rena. I don’t have the time or the patience. Life’s too short.

  3. Miranda Hardy February 11, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    I was just telling a friend how important it is to surround yourself with positive people. It’s great to get constructive criticism, but it should be delivered in a way to help the writer, not hinder thier journey.

  4. ticklingthemuse February 11, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    Agreed! I started feeling sorry for them, though, because in my mind they’re blocked artists who are taking it out on someone else. Or I laugh at them. Whichever seems more appropriate at the time. 😉

  5. Jennifer Young February 11, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    The Candidate B response should only be from those that love you and with a wink. Anyone else’s it, doesn’t matter, because they will NOT help improve your writing. I would move on and forget them. I agree totally with Rena.

    Thanks for sharing

    • ticklingthemuse February 11, 2012 at 1:44 am #

      Absolutely! I agree. Candidate B is a little extreme–I have never heard anyone say that to me. I have people around me who are more direct, but they have the license to be. Those who say it to be hurtful shouldn’t be in any circles, inner or outer. They are the ones to be kept —————————>here. =)

      • followingthemuse February 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

        Unfortunately, along with the possibility of ignorance, is jealousy or even envy which forces any honest critique to take a back seat. Stay with your trusted circle.

  6. patientdreamer February 12, 2012 at 5:04 am #

    I had Cat.B flung at me last year once…….. Although it hurt at the time, I wished they had given me a line by line critique instead. Surely there was something good in it somewhere.
    It was for a poem I did which is not what I normally do anyway. They are kept well away now. Thanks for this post.

    • ticklingthemuse February 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

      I hope the one person didn’t keep you from writing poetry. It’s not that things we work on can’t use critique, but if people come at us with that attitude, they’re doing nothing more than trying to kill a dream.

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