This is part of my “What I Learnt” series, where I post about my learnings from life, writing and more.
A year back, I wrote this short story “A letter from the death bed” for the WriteIndia contest, which I would rate one of my best stories till date and also gave me a lot of confidence that I could write fiction. I got a series of positive comments which motivated me. Comments like
“Very touching. Loved it!!!”
“A very well written story…tragic yet inspiring!”
“Beautiful…. Thought provoking and very realistic”
“Hi. This story is painful & hopeful, but also deeply tragic. Thank you for sharing it. There are a few minor issues scattered in the text, but the overall message and narrative are spectacular. Lots of love to you. Looking forward to reading more of your work.”
Those comments made my day, as I was feeling pretty elated about my writing skills and I was glad that readers liked my story.
UNTIL I read this comment.
“Explicit Sex and Abuse stories always sell. Example : Shobha De Et al……”
I got offended. I felt really really bad. All of a sudden, my day which was progressing very well came crashing down. All it takes for a writer (especially a beginner at fiction writing) is one comment that can pull you down. I felt really low after reading the comment.
I felt “I mean, how come the reader doesn’t understand what I wrote, when others were praising the work”
But that’s when I thought, “Ok, I am 30+ years old and I should think in a matured way”.
So I thought, I should not take this personally and I understood that people can have different tastes and opinions. So I started thinking about my options:
- Not respond at all – Game over. No one would know that I ever got such comment. (Since, it was in wordpress, I hadn’t approved it at that stage, so it was easy to ignore). But then, it doesn’t make sense, the reader has at least tried to read the story. So it would be very bad if I didn’t respond back.
- Apologize – for disappointing a reader. I thought as a writer, maybe I should apologize for the reader not liking my work. Then I thought, what the heck? Why should I? I mean, realistically, in my writing career there are going to be 1000s of such readers who are not going to like my work. Would I apologize to each and every reader?
- Defend – the story. It can become a debate because of difference of opinions or even vision of the reader and the writer.
While I was pondering what to do, I thought “Why not just communicate what my intention was. This was surely a misinterpretation of my intentions.”
So I put out this comment
“Selling was never an intention. Just wanted to explain the victim’s pain.”
This explained my intention behind writing that story. I felt I would be genuine in expressing my intention rather than worrying about the reader’s interpretation.
I didn’t get any other reply from the reader.
Then, being the optimist that I am, I forgot about the entire incident and got back to my business.
To my surprise, the next day, I got a comment from the same person. It read
“Sorry for that knee jerk reaction and comment of mine. On second reading I found it deeply engrossing and profound, You have beautifully captured the feelings and pain of an abused girl and her transformation when Aryan supports her. Let every abused woman find a husband like him. In these cases working at micro level is better than macro level. “Bad touch, Good touch” should be drilled into our young children. Good effort but the beginning needs rework – “shrug the past” bit. Good wishes.”
And I was elated. This time, the same person who criticized me for my story, had written such a wonderful message for me.
What I Learnt from this episode?
- Be respectful – By not ignoring the comment of the reader, I was giving him his due respect.
- Don’t apologize – After all, all writers are artists. And it’s not necessary for everyone to like your piece of art. If you are consistent, the right people will eventually like your art.
- Don’t defend – After all, writing a story is not a mistake.
- People will give you a second chance if you are genuine – That’s what I really felt. I was not being egoistic and I think maybe he felt I was being genuine.
- Optimism always pays rich dividends – I took the entire episode as positively, so I think I was rewarded.
- Maturity does matter – I felt I handled it in a matured way, especially considering that I was beginning my writing journey, especially in fiction. So hats off buddy (I am saying this to myself 😉 )
- As a writer, you are not going to be praised always – I got this in my mind early enough. Different people can feel differently about a story, movie, politician, people, country, etc.
This is the start of my “What I Learnt” series where I am going to share what I learnt during various phases of my writing journey and maybe life journey too.
And what have been your experiences in handling criticisms? I would be happy to listen and learn. Please feel free to share those in the comments section.
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Recenly, I have started a new series “What I Learnt” where I share my learnings about multiple things. Feel free to read and comment.
About parenting and life