Updated: Aug 30, 2019
I must admit—— I care a whole lot about what people think of my writing.
Whether it's a blog post, an essay, an email even, and especially a book, I itch to hear the feedback from the wide variety of readers.
Sometimes, though, I may not be able to hear it. Instead, I can sense what they think of it right away. By habit, I predict what I think their opinion of my novel may be. Sometimes I'm right, other times I'm surprised. Every once in a while I can almost see their feedback, their review obvious by the look on their faces. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. Sometimes I'm encouraged, other times I wonder.
If you have ever created a piece of work or performed in front of an audience, you probably can relate.
Very often, we tend to claim that we don't care about what people think. It's a form of defense, a way to protect our true emotion. While there are plenty of people who genuinely don't think twice about the opinions others may have towards them (definitely people I look up to), this blog post is for those who have to swallow down their hurt after a bad review, who stay up late at night losing sleep thinking about what someone said, for those who wish they didn't care, but really, really do. I am like you. I would love to brush off an uncomfortable look I may receive from someone. I wish I could easily shrug away a negative remark or dust off my shoulder whenever I sense tension. But, the truth is that it isn't easy for me. I'll be the first to admit that I care about what people think. Not just about what they think of me, but what they think of my novel. I care for my book to be liked. I want it to be liked. I want it to be someone's favorite book. Yet, even though I care so much about the feedback I get from my words, it's nothing like the way I care about my words myself.
I think about all of the moments where I was writing the story and didn't even know it. Depressed at age 12, who knew I would squeeze a 300+ page book out of it? Flipping through all of the pages, I think about which chapter gave me the biggest headache, which character was the hardest to develop. I reflect on all of the conversations I had that inspired a new idea for the plot, people who I've met that—little did they know—helped me build a character's personality. I remember all of the nights where I wanted to quit, the revelations I had from Holy Spirit during battles with writer's block and self-doubt. I recall the months of communicating back and forth with my editor, taking out chapters and adding new ones. There were months of leaving the document untouched, other months of rereading chapter after chapter. The years of my life—four to be exact—that I invested in this novel grew me as a storyteller, from making mistakes to lessons learned, which is why I cannot base the value of my novel on the opinions of readers. It's true that I cherish the positive emails I receive from those who read my words. I love meeting young girls who tell me how much they can relate to the main character. l embrace the moments when a reader tells me how much my character helped them overcome their struggle with self-identity. It's as if my heartbreak became their healing, my book became their blessing. The words that they read are words I cried over. Still, there are chapters I reread to feel the same strength I felt in writing them. It's a story of my life, my testimony with a twist. It's a message I must uphold for the sake of what it took to share it.
What's my point here? You've got a project that you need to get out too.
Perhaps you want to publish a novel as well. Maybe you need to record a song you wrote or start filming a short movie you had in mind. Maybe your project is an athletic skill you want to perfect, showing other athletes that they can do it too. It could be a recipe you made that you want people to try one day. Perhaps you have a collection of ideas that you need to brainstorm into a play.
Whatever it may be, create it. Even if not everyone likes it, create it. There's a void that only your creative ability could fill. What a shame it would be if you left it empty only because you cared too much about what people may think.
You know what it took to write your song, to film your movie, to cook that dish. It may not mean much to them, but it means much to you. So, pick up your pen, guitar, camera, whatever your instrument may be. I know you care about what they think, but it's not worth holding back your art from the people who care about what you think.