►The Golden Path
Discouragement for a writer is crushing, paralyzing. If we don’t believe in our work many will falter, regardless of the strength of our skill and the project. A writer’s morale is vital for, just like an army, if it believes it is defeated… it is.
But there is another demon at work in a writer’s life, one that generates the opposite emotional reaction: Delusion. We can click “Publish” on Amazon, and tell everyone we meet that we’re an author. We can hug our manuscripts and dance around the room, convinced of its perfection, but only your family/friends will patronize you by reading it. (And if that’s all you want, great.) But most of us want to produce a quality novel that will be read by the masses.
The evolving author must walk a careful path between the scathingly self-critical and euphoric, Moonie bliss. Run too far from criticism and we close our eyes to the weaknesses in our work. Alternatively, stay too long in the oven of scrutiny and you’ll wither and die. This balance is essential to our success as writers.
So how do we maintain that balance? One way is by managing a wide array of both kinds of feedback. Usually friends will non-critically encourage you. This does have value, but it’s not useful as a gauge for how skilled you actually are.
Writers must seek out the critical input of those who love reading (and writing), asking for specific, critical responses to their work. I suggest always making it crystal clear what you want from them. In this case, that they be totally candid with you, that they pull off the kid-gloves, and give their opinions to you without edit.
We can balance ourselves with the right kinds of books as well. On the self-encouragement side, there are dozens of accomplished writers who will tell you that they once stood exactly where you stand (hopeless, lost, hating their day-job, etc.). Many other successful people have encouraged by showing how consistent hard work will allow anyone to excel in any field whatsoever. Specifically for writing, we should get our hands on every instructional book possible in addition to voraciously reading novels in and out of our genre.
Encouragement is our momentum, and criticism our trajectory. We need both working in tandem to arrive at our destination.