No statue has ever been put up in honour of a critic, as the saying goes. But is it just me or do those critics seem extra tough on us writers, especially aspiring scribes? Particularly when the subject of the negativity is striving for their lifelong dream of becoming published or winning a book deal.
Some people enjoy nothing more than shooting others down in flames. If you have ever dieted you will be acutely aware of the diet saboteur, always keen to offer a tempting slice of forbidden cake. I was recently all dressed up for a night out only to be told by a ‘friend’ on arrival at the venue that I ‘looked tired’. I wonder what was the point of that? It just made me feel terrible. And grand public events involving an element of celebration such as the Olympics or the Royal Wedding seem to attract a particular type of naysayer: those who are intent on moaning and pontificating and spoiling it for everyone else. I’m not a huge fan of Kate and Wills but I loved the feelgood factor that the celebrations brought to the UK so I kept my mouth shut. Who cares what I think? When is constant negativity a good thing?
As an aspiring writer, it is common to hear other people utter the following gems:
“Nobody is publishing books any more” (Not true, the market is buoyant thanks to epublishing)
“You’ll never get anywhere” (JK Rowling was told this many times)
“I’ve always thought I should write a book. I could do much better than the rubbish out there” (Well, you haven’t, did you?)
“That’s not a proper job” (Not even worth dignifying with a response)
“I thought that your latest article/column/book wasn’t very good/was full of errors” (And how many books have you written? None, I suspect)
I once read a dreadful book called ‘How Not to be a Writer’ where the author spent the duration of the book advising the readers ‘Don’t Do It’. No doubt he thought he was being witty but it fell flat. It was the most pointless book ever and just made the reader feel depressed.
So why do people love to put down those who are pursuing their dreams? Well, partly jealousy: you are doing something you love when they are not. In the UK we almost seem embarrassed about following our heart and trying to make something of our lives unlike our American cousins. And it is just in some people’s nature to put others down, so I would advise you steer clear of this kind of toxic person, often appearing in the guise of a friend. You might not make it but what if you do? You won’t if you listen to negativity and don’t even try. And even if you don’t become the next John Grisham, the journey can be hugely enjoyable. Surround yourself with those who believe in you and champion your dreams.
The successful writers I have had the pleasure of meeting have one thing in common: they are modest, hard working and hugely encouraging to newer writers just starting out, recognising the need to nurture emerging talent and be generous with their time.
So join a writers’ group, follow your favourite writer on Twitter and above all remember: nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.