What If You Write Something People Don’t Like?

You took the time to write something. Something you were really proud of and couldn’t wait to introduce to the world.

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Something we don’t talk nearly enough about in the writing community is what happens if you end up writing something people don’t like. It’s easy to tell someone to sit down and write a novel and tell the story they’ve always wanted to tell. But what happens when it’s out there in the world and someone responds negatively to it?

It’s not fun. At all. But we can all overcome it, little by little, word by word. Here’s what you might need to hear, or really don’t want to hear, but might let it sink in anyway.

It’s probably going to happen more than once.

Ouch. Weren’t expecting that one, were you? Unfortunately, it’s true. There are going to be those who praise you and those who apparently seek only to tear you down. It’s just the way things work. You know that already. You know you’re supposed to look at it “from a different angle” and figure out what you can learn from the experience.

Yes, that’s important, but … IT STILL SUCKS. A LOT.

Sure, this is all a great opportunity to learn and grow, and that might help you in the long-term, but in the short-term, having something out there that isn’t getting the kinds of reviews or mentions you were hoping for makes giving up sound pretty appealing.

Experiencing this more than once doesn’t make it hurt any less.

You took the time to write something. Something you were really proud of and couldn’t wait to introduce to the world. Maybe it was something as simple as a blog or Facebook post. Maybe it was a poem or a short story or a novel. Whatever it was, you poured your heart and soul into that thing. Negative comments were expected … but you probably didn’t expect them to hurt so much.

It’s okay to feel hurt. Remember that, in most cases, it’s your work being criticized, not you. If it’s your idea or opinion that’s being critiqued in a negative way, remember that not everyone is as sophisticated in the art of forming arguments as you, the writer, might be. Some people get defensive when their ideas and opinions are challenged, and their first instinct is to fire back impulsively.

It’s completely justifiable, your fear. How are you supposed to keep putting your thoughts and ideas and stories out there when they were so harshly received the last time you tried? What’s the point? The last thing you want is to feel the way that made you feel all over again.

But don’t let anything stop you.

Of course this is easier said than done. Rejection hurts, and negative comments hurt, and it’s hard to push through those feelings. It’s hard not to take it personally. Even still, you can’t let it keep bringing you down every time you try getting back up. You have to push through it, even if you can only do it a little bit at a time.

Know that not everything you write is going to please everyone who reads it. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or not worth writing. It just means you’ll have to practice trusting and believing that someone out there needs it. Focus on that one person. If you change one life as a writer, isn’t that still amazing? Doesn’t that cancel out all the negativity? Well, maybe not. But it’s a start.

Have to give due credit to onereasonableperson for inspiring this post. We all face different challenges as writers, and overcoming the aftermath of criticism is a big one. We’ve all had to deal with this at one time or another to different extremes, but each person’s journey is different. Anyone reading this is welcome to share their own stories about dealing with this down in the comments.

We’re all here to help each other. Writing is supposed to be fun and fulfilling. Don’t forget why you started writing in the first place. You CAN start again. It’s still worth it. Keep going.

Image courtesy of balistrericonsulting.com.

9 thoughts on “What If You Write Something People Don’t Like?

  1. Thanks for the post!

    I’m positive that eventually I’ll get out of the funk I’m in; it just takes time. Here’s the story of the last occasion:

    After about 3 years of work, I’d finished the 3rd draft of my first novel. It was awesome. Incredible. The world was going to beat a path to my door to read it. But I’d been on some writing forums and knew that, before self publishing it, I should run it by an editor first.

    I found a lady on Elance who would do the job for $550. A little steep, but I’d be making millions with my book, so … cool. I was quite confident that she’d simply correct a few typos and tell me how awesome a writer I am. Then I’d publish and get my $$$.

    Needless to say, she tore it to shreds. I fell into a hole for about 6 months after that. No writing at all. When I emerged, though, I was a much better writer. Some people still don’t like my finished product, but others have told me that they couldn’t put it down. That wouldn’t have happened without my growth from the 3rd draft to the final draft.

    I just have to incorporate the new lessons I’ve learned to make my next book even better.

    Once I pull myself out of this current hole.

    Anyway, thanks for the encouragement.

    1. Exact same thing happened to me, when I did an M.A. There was this one teacher who gave really harsh biting feedback. I was a little scared of her, I think. Really made it terrible for the first semester. But when I recovered from that I was a much better writer.

      I’m sorry to hear you’re in a hole. It’s not nice when that happens. Very frustrating.

      Have you tried reading The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield, that has helped me many a time?

      1. I’m slowly working my way out of it. I actually did a little bit of editing each of the last two days and I’m hopeful that I’ll do more today. I feel my enthusiasm slowly returning.

      2. That’s the spirit. You’ve just gotta keep coming back. I try to value discipline more than quality. After all, it’s really hard to stop someone who doesn’t give up.

  2. I think George Saunders said it best. He said, in an interview I can barely remember, that if it’s true, it sticks. So if you receive criticism and still revisit it a few years on, it’s probably because it’s true. If you don’t, you’ve either solved the problem, or it wasn’t a problem in the first place. This being said, it’s also true for positive stuff probably.

    Like excessive praise can probably create as much distortion around a piece of writing, or yourself as a writer. I don’t know. Do you think that’s true or am I just spitting feathers?

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