Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Naked Writing

I’ve never understood the desire to write without the desire to share the end result, with the exception, perhaps of writing in my private journal. My writing, whether my first not-yet-published novel, Talking to Strangers, my new in-process novel, Thicker Than Water, or my many Penandplow blogs, is meant to be shared. From time to time, I need to remind myself of this fact. For as much as I feel a deep need to share my words, I don’t always have the thick skin I need to let differing opinions and criticism leave me unbruised.

A writer knows how characters spring to life, creating their own paths, sometimes going completely away from the original plot outline. Yet, I’ll defend their actions and point of view like they are my own children.

But to stray from what I know is right is to stray from my integrity. As an author, if I believe in my writing, where it’s headed and where it’s been, I need to trust myself. If, on the other hand, I’m nervous about writing the real story, or I’m keeping my characters from coming alive, I’m creating a counterfeit. Naked writing is real – no holds barred.

Yes, we will all be vulnerable. We’ll be exposed to the caprice of opinion, whether right or wrong. Knowing when to accept constructive criticism and/or ask for assistance is like walking a tightrope. It takes some practice. Maybe we even fall to the net below. But the lesson is to climb the ladder again, grab the pole and balance it across our shoulders, and put one foot in front of the other. Again and again.

I’ve been in my critique group amidst opposing opinions and freely-given criticism directed at my work. Even though I know where the story is headed, and even though there are those who appreciate my characters and like the plot, afterward I want to sit in my car and cry. A little bit, anyway.

In the end, I remind myself that I believe in the integrity of my writing. I appreciate constructive criticism from writers I trust and I need to let the rest of it go. It sounds like it will be a lot like being published. If so, then this is good practice.


Tanya Eby said...

I love this! I love the title naked writing and the reminder that we are all vulnerable. That's as it should be. I think we're the best then. I can't wait to read your book.

J.C. Hanks said...

I think as long are your characters voices remain true, a bit of tweaking here and there based on constructive feedback doesn't hurt too much.

That said, I still won't change Jess' main trait of swearing like a drunken sailor, no matter how badly I would like my mom to edit her stories for me. Luckily, my other two characters are more proper and rarely swear, so my mom is more willing to at least proof those for me.