Writing is a very personal thing. And because of that, it is ironic that most writer’s attempt to publish. To sit down and pour your heart and soul into a piece and then risk the utter pain associated with being cast off, cast aside, told you are not good enough, is devastating some times. Unless you learn to take criticism as a tool for improvement. There are some people I know who, after countless writing classes, and many short stories, cannot take any negative criticism, even if laced expertly with constructive comments (i.e. constructive criticism).
Writing classes teach us to not take everything said about our written work as a personal attack, because the writing itself is a life form. It holds the energy we poured into it. It can speak for itself, come alive on the page and in our imagination. Words are coy and shy, subtle and secretive, or blatant and boisterous. When we critique it is to improve on the craft, to improve the work, to improve the process, to improve the outcome, not to bash the author. Or even the subject. There is a fine line between critiquing the process, the way we get from point A to point B, and then completely disregarding what a person wants to write about. You can have opinions about whether they will have any success in translating subject to story form or memoir form or poetry form, but one should not critique the heart of the piece. I must say, it has been rather humorous to see how some of my younger counter-parts address this particular fine line in class. Which is to say that they are not kind. Nor particularly helpful.
It is amazing (and yes, I realize that is a very abstract word) what energy can create inspiration in you. Coming to a conclusion and feeling the relief associated with it, keeping you buzzing for days on end. The spark of new versus the monotony of old. The hope for the future versus the daunting depression associated with the past. Or simply the decision that you will be happy, no matter what, because to let yourself completely fall into unhappiness and sadness and worry is the quickest way to ending any possibility for something else, something other, something bigger, and above all, something better.
Life is our best teacher. Experience can bring something fresh, new, innovative, and something wholly unique to any piece of writing. We all possess similar stories, with similar themes, but like a snowflake, no two experiences are the same (despite what déjà vu tells us). How conflict arises, how our protagonist handles the situation, what climax brings about resolution, or if there is any resolution. Life is the same way. It is ironic and wonderful that we use writing (and movies, music, and games) to escape from the perils of life, because these things echo what we experience. Though sometimes in hyperbole. Even science fiction or fantasy novels discuss very common, though very genuine and complex ideas, like love, liberty, happiness, and progress. Though I am writer, and I would love my work read (which is to say, to have someone remain motionless or indoors), I cannot advocate fully enough the need to go out and live. Some of the most memorable and best times in my mere 26 years involve going and doing, not sitting and waiting. At times it was exhausting, and I would drag myself home and literally crawl on hands and knees to a bed, but what I received from those experiences far outweigh the physical stress. To look at it metaphorically, the scales between physical and emotional rewards, the emotional outweighed, and therefore justified, the physical. (Now, please understand this is not an advocacy to do something wholly stupid like get yourself addicted to heroin or methamphetamine, but to encourage those people sitting on their couch to get up, open the door, and step into the world.)
It is easy to preach about these things. It is easy to stand on a soapbox and wax on about the need to live. It is also somewhat awkward coming from someone as young as I am. Even though financial burdens do weigh heavy on possibilities (unless you are well accustomed to the gypsy lifestyle) do not let them control every decision. I know I did for years. Until I found myself in a place where I literally did not have a single cent to my name and it provoked me to take any job I could find. Even though that job was not enough for the bills (even as an adult living temporarily at home), it was worth the months of experience. Not everyone will have that luxury, I understand. But I do have one important argument: where there is a will, there is a way. I, of all people, know the difficulty of the job search. I was without work for over a year. And when I finally found something, it was an unpaid internship, but it opened doors, pushed my boundaries, and taught me valuable lessons. And then when I finally did get a job that paid, it was well below the minimum needed to survive without the generosity from my parents. But the lessons I learned from this experience are invaluable. They have propelled me to put myself in different situations and come out with something. Maybe not the highly coveted or desired outcome, but one that acts as a stepping stone, or a starting off point. And maybe that is a lesson in itself. When we aim for a goal, it is rare to reach it immediately.