Writing Wednesday: Shutting Out the Critics to Tell The Story You Want

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In today’s climate, it can be overwhelming to be a writer. We yearn to tackle the ugly things about reality, like suicide, sexual assault, divorce, war, and physical and mental illnesses. Yet, this desire is tempered by the fear of being thrust under the microscope of public opinion. Is our content appropriate? Did we avoid controversy? Were we careful not to offend? In an effort to please everyone, we run the risk of compromising our creative freedom and our voices. We sacrifice a potentially great story in favor of playing it safe.

While a certain level of sensitivity needs to be employed when dealing with any subject, it’s important to not let the preconceived notions about the perceptions of others to control how and what you write. Rather, your focus should be on creating characters that feel real and relatable with a plot that feels honest. Why shy away from something just because it may make a few uncomfortable. That is what art was meant to do. It holds up a mirror to show us the truth about life. As author Jay Asher tweeted, “Art can never be too realistic. But it can force you to face reality.”

Here are a few things to keep in mind, so you can craft the story you want to tell.

Write like no one is reading.

One of the hardest things to do is shake free of outside opinions during the creative process. However, one of the greatest skills you can possess is being able to just shut the world out and commit your to paper regardless of what the results may be. Think of yourself as your own audience. Who and what would you want to read about? Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Pick up that pen. Write the story you want to tell, the story you want to read. Don’t worry about your audience right now. They will find you when you finish.

Every reader reads differently.

You cannot control the interpretation of your story. People are different, and, thus, the things they take away from your narrative can vary widely. Take 13 Reasons Why, for example. The show (and book to some extent) have been perceived two very different ways. Some say 13 Reasons Why glorifies suicide and influences teens to avoid seeking help from trusted adults. Others say the show and the book prevented them from taking their own lives and helped them to find the courage to seek treatment. In both instances, the material was the exact same. Yet, it produced to conflicting viewpoints. Readers will see what the want to see no matter what you put on the page.

Accept haters gonna hate.

Picking at things to death has become a national pastime. You can’t please everyone. No matter how perfect or how well-researched your story is, people will always find something scrutinize about it. Not everyone will like your book. That’s okay. Accept it and move on. Just don’t let them silence your creative voice. Instead, let those naysayers fuel your fire.

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