Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Me and My Critic Fairies


Me and my Critic Fairy Critters

This month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question comes from Sarah, who asks:

"Where do your expectations for your writing
(career/skill/quality/achievements) come from? Is the source internal, external, or both? And how do you cope when you don't meet them?"

Oh the pressure.

My expectations for my career come from me. What I want out of a writing career has changed from a spastic "I WANNA WRITE A BOOK!" to a more refined, "I would love a successful, lifelong career in YA fiction writing."

Defining success is a very personal, individual thing. I'm still figuring it out. Good reviews? A certain number of books sold? Both? Just being published (which is already huge for me)? Just writing the stories I want to write? We'll see.

As for the skill and quality of my writing? External or internal? I'd say both.
For me, the external sources of pressure include:
  • future readers
  • my crit partners
  • my agent
  • my editor
  • other YA books that blow me away with their story lines and prose

The internal sources of pressure come from me trying my hardest to write a page of a novel that I can read and say, "Wow, this is good. How did I do that?" Something I can be really proud of.

Now, the last question: How do I deal when I don't meet my expectations?

For my career? Ask again later, says the Eight Ball. It's too early.

For my writing, it's revise, revise, and revise. Revision has been the key to my writing skills improving. I hate doing them, but I also love them because they make me a better writer. I set the bar very high for myself. I'm used to reading my writing and knowing when it sucks lemons. Because at the end of the day?

I am my harshest critic.

45 comments:

Sarah said...

Wonderful post, Lydia. I think this question is kind of hard to unpack, because of course our motivations and expectations are so multifaceted, but you've done a remarkable job!

Laura Pauling said...

Me too! My expectations and goals are always there right beside me. When I don't meet them, I have to look at why and there is usually a reason.

mooderino said...

I tend not to look to far ahead. My first goal is to write a book I acn read all the way through without feeling there's something major missing. So far I've gotten close, but not quite there.

mood

Old Kitty said...

Great post, thanks for sharing! I think I'm also my worst critique especially when my stories are rejected. I tend to think I'm not good enough then I take a monumental effort to change this to "perhaps they just were not ready" and then brave the elements and send them out (again) to be critiqued professionally (again). It's the only way I know how to improve my writing!

Take care
x

Louise Bates said...

Boy, that is a question to really make you think. I am my harshest critic, too - my writing is never as good as the story in my head I am trying to tell. And I suppose that where my expectations and goals come in, too - my goal has always been to reach the point where the stories on paper match the ones in my head. And while I don't expect that to ever happen, realistically, I do expect that I will consistently get closer to that vision the more I right.

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

Great post. I know I'm harsh on grading my work. That's why it's so difficult to get through the first draft--I end up revising it before I even finish, thinking I can make it even better.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love revising because I do push myself to do better with each draft, especially after I've discovered a new craft book. :D

Great answers, Lydia!

Misha Gericke said...

I'm also quite a harsh critic on myself, but at the same time I struggle to see the forest through the trees, so I let my crit partners guide me. :-)

Emily Rose said...

Great post Lydia.:) I know I'm my harshest critic, too. Do you think it's like that for most writers?

Coleen Patrick said...

Great post Lydia! I am the same way. It's funny because if I finish a book that I didn't love, I will still look for the positive, and consider all the hard work I know the author put in. Really difficult to do that for myself!

Jessica R. Patch said...

"Defining success is a very personal, individual thing. I'm still figuring it out."

Me too! I'm my harshest critic too. It's looking from the comments we all are the worst on ourselves!

Jax said...

Expectations should come from yourself. But sometimes, we are our hardest critics.

Connie Keller said...

Yeah, I'm my harshest critic too. I think the other hard thing is that I focus on what's going badly instead of what's gone right. I know I should work hard on what's wrong and be really grateful for what's right. At least, that's what my husband keeps telling me. :)

Man O' Clay said...

I love how the fairy commenting on your bad metaphor uses a simile - somehow that makes me smile.

Karen Lange said...

I hear you; I'm my harshest critic too. Thankfully there are many great resources at our fingertips, and good friends who offer more perspective.

Susan R. Mills said...

I'm my harshest critic, too. I actually have come to like revisions because I can see my improvement in them.

Deb Salisbury said...

How true!

I love your fairies. Now show them the door and tell them to go live in the forest where they belong! :-)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I can relate to this. I am my own harshest critic, as well. I am, actually, grateful for this. Also, revising is my way of working through not meeting my expectations. Go Critic Fairies.

Carol Riggs said...

I think I'm a harsh self-critic, but there's always SOMEthing that I don't even see or haven't thought about, that my CPs or agent catches! I'm grateful for them. And you're so right--revising is the name of the game, a crucial skill to have!

By the way, I mentioned you in my blog post today! :)

Meredith said...

Revisions really do help you grow as a writer, don't they? I didn't realize that when I started out.

Lauren Alissa Hunter said...

Being harsh on yourself and forcing yourself through endless revisions is SO much better than blindly submitting unpolished work. I think it is good to be hyper-critical of your work, so long as it is in a pursuit of polishing it, and not in the "you're so doomed to fail!" kind of way.

LD Masterson said...

I think your last line says it all.

Jen Chandler said...

Aren't we all? I know I'm super hard on myself and my writing. I can have three people read my work and tell me it's good and point out why but when I go back and read it, I find it lacking.

I have to learn balance, to know when to let the story have it's way.

Great post!
Cheers,
Jen

Southpaw said...

Tough questions. I like your answers and as always loved your illustration!

I moved my blog, but there is a feed problem with my old blog and the posts aren’t showing up. You can visit my new blog here.

Lynda R Young said...

I can relate to the self being the harshest critic. I can also relate to I WANNA WRITE A BOOK. For me that's how I started too, but now that has also refine to wanting more than just one book, but a long and healthy career.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Your answer for skill and quality match mine. Well, all except the agent part. So far everything on this journey has exceeded my expectations. Hey, just writing the first book was a success! Everything else has been bonus.

Krispy said...

Loved the insight here. Thanks for sharing. Totally agree with you that we're our own harshest critics.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Agreed. I'm very, very hard on myself. Even after getting an agent, and signing a deal, I still open up what I wrote the night before and say, "Really? Really, Mindy? You think someone wants to read that?"

Carrie Butler said...

I think there's a writing curse that forces us into the role of "our own harshest critic," but at least it comes with cute little fairies! :)

Jennifer Hillier said...

I love your doodle pictures! I think one day you should do a post with all your pictures in one place.

I'm definitely my harshest critic, in writing, and in life. It makes me a hard worker, but it sometimes makes me unhappy to, because I never get to a place where I feel good enough. Ya know?

Stephanie Thornton said...

Your doodle pictures are really too much fun. I love them!

I think we're all very good at tearing ourselves to pieces over our writing. Good thing we have friends to build us back up!

Sophia Chang said...

I love posts like this because it shows how alike we really are inside :)

Madeleine Maddocks said...

Good post Lydia
I know wroters should be determined and beleive in themselves. I'm trying to do just that.

Jill Kemerer said...

Same here, Lydia. I'm much harder on my writing than anyone else. I leave snarky comment balloons throughout my ms during my first revision pass, and I laugh so loud when I go back to fix them. Have to amuse ourselves somehow, right? :)

Matthew MacNish said...

The hardest part is knowing when to stop fixing. Personally, I'm not there yet.

lbdiamond said...

Those damn fairies.

Nice post!

cherie said...

I am my harshest critic, too. I read a lot, so when I read something phenomenal, I instantly think: "I can never be as good as so and so, and therefore, I will never get published." Very hard on myself, but I'm learning to take it one step at a time. ;)

Robert Guthrie said...

Yup... revising is writing.

Carol Kilgore said...

Yes! to all this. I, too, am my own harshest critic.

DL Hammons said...

The harshest critic part almost goes without saying, but I'm also the one who keeps moving the bar higher and higher when I get close to realizing an expectation. There is no SATISFICATION to be had!! :)

Susan Oloier said...

Not only do I love the content of your post, I love the way you write it. Magic Eight Ball :-)

Abby Minard said...

I think we are all our harshest critics sometimes we are the only ones that can drive ourselves to be the very best. But I know I will also be totally driven by my crit partners, agent, editors, readers etc if I ever do manage to get published.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I'm like you. My writing expectations come from myself. I really want to be a successful published author one day so I need to keep working hard. I push myself to make my writing better, but also feel that push from my critique partners (which I'm grateful for!)

Leslie Rose said...

I love the whole "will this one be the one" game be it with a MS or even a query. It's so cool to always have "possibility" floating around out there.

Tracy Jo said...

I love the critic fairies and can so relate. Now that I am working for myself instead of someone else...my expectations are way higher. It is refreshing when we push from inside ourselves to see how far we can go!

 
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