You might not believe this, but once, I didn't write for a whole year.
I shall tell you the story.
I grew up in a family environment that was very supportive of my writing. Both my parents thought everything I wrote was just awesome, my grandparents were so proud ... my sisters tolerated it with a minimum of eye rolling ... basically, I was never really corrected. I took some correspondence courses in journalism and creative writing from BYU Independent Study, and while my grades sometimes fell to a B-, for the most part, I was consistently praised.
I got a contract with my first publisher and when my edits came back, very few things had been marked, and they were minor. Again, no one told me anything significant was wrong. It was all hunky-dory.
When the book came out, people loved it. I got rave reviews, I was asked to speak in various places, and I thought I had it totally made.
Then I wrote my second book and sent it off to a friend and fellow author. And she trashed it. I mean, totally trashed it.
And I didn't know how to take it.
You see, when you've never been corrected, you don't know how to grow and improve. And when you are corrected, because it will happen someday, it comes as a total shock because it has never occurred to you that you might not be doing it right.
I'm not saying this to be all, "I'm perfect." I'm saying, I was raised to think I was perfect, and to learn that I wasn't was really hard for me.
I'm not at all proud of what I did after I got that critique. I'm sharing it, though, because I'm making a point here.
I took the manila envelope and I threw it into the back of my closet as hard as I could. It went back and behind a small dresser I had in there, and I decided that I wasn't going to write anymore.
Was it a tantrum? Yes. But it was an amazing learning experience.
A year went by. I thanked my friend for her critique, even though it still stung. I kept myself busy with other things, but in the back of my mind, I never stopped wanting to write.
And one day, I dug in the back of my closet and pulled out that envelope. I took a deep breath, pulled out the pages, and read over the notes with the perspective of a year's distance.
And guess what . . . my friend was absolutely right. About everything.
I had written that manuscript totally sure that I could do no wrong, and I hadn't taken the time to create a good plot or compelling characters or to polish my writing. I'd just dashed off this book, believing myself to be the golden child, and my friend called me out on it. That story was dreadful. I mean, it really was. And because she was my friend, she wasn't going to let me humiliate myself by putting something out there that wasn't up to the standard she knew I could reach.
I threw that story away and I started writing other stories. I studied, I asked questions, I read books in my genre, and I learned and I grew and I published better books.
And I learned so much about myself and about life in the process.
I learned that it's not good for a person to go through their whole life without ever being corrected. I know my parents were just trying to create a supportive environment for me, but I honestly had no idea that I wasn't doing things right, and when it was shown me, I had no coping mechanism. We must be corrected if we're to grow up to be successful adults. I dislike the parenting techniques that say we should never correct our children because it might damage their self-esteem. If we aren't lovingly, gently guiding them to want to do better, we're raising people who will someday throw entire books into the backs of their closets because someone told them they weren't perfect.
I learned how crucial it is to get feedback from others. We can't see our own mistakes. We're either too hard on ourselves or we're too lax, thinking there's nothing wrong when there really is. We must ask others to help us see our weaknesses. At the same time, they'll also help us see our strengths. (I could talk about unhelpful feedback, but I'll save that one for another day.)
I learned that giving up on something you love to do is just silly. I was going to let my pride keep me from writing, which had been a life-long dream. If there's something you want to do, do it, but understand that there's a price to be paid. There's hard work, there's dedication, and yes, there are uncomfortable critiques. But if you want it badly enough, you push through it. That's what makes champions.
Looking back on the experience, I feel utterly foolish. Who just throws an entire book behind a dresser like that? (I mean, besides me.) I wish I hadn't acted so immaturely, but I have to say, it was one of those defining moments we all have in life. Going through that time of doubt and discouragement and then all the realizations that came after it really shaped who I became later. By the end of this year, I will have published over thirty books, both self-published and traditional, in a wide array of lengths and topics. I run a very successful editing company, and I started my own publishing company last fall. Would any of this happened without my year-long pity party? I seriously doubt it. I had to come face-to-face with myself and determine who I was and what I really wanted.
And in case you're wondering who that friend was who helped me in my metamorphosis, you probably know her best for her wildly popular Sadie Hoffmiller series. Thanks, Josi Kilpack. You are amazing.