I love this time of the year. Every year there is a verse from the Gospel read that I completely love. It is Matthew 3:1-12. Now, I am not going to get all Christian on you here, but it has a lot to do with how you deal with editorial comments. So, stick with me!
That passage introduces us to John the Baptist. I love him. He comes out of the mountains, a wild man, wearing camel hair, and leather belt. He lived on locusts and honey. Picture this guy for a second. I see a man who has honey and locusts stuck to his beard and comes down from the hills screaming about someone who is coming after him who he’s not fit to tie the sandals of. Pretty cool.
He’s talking of all those things that make us Christians feel squeamish. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath and come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” So, what John was doing here was telling the truth of the coming of Christ. Whether you believe or not is irrelevant. Within the context of the Bible, that is what he was doing. And you know what? People hated to hear it. Just as the Christians today hate to hear these words because they remind us we all need to do a far sight better than we do.
So, what does this have to do with writers and writing in general. We can take a lesson from this if we look at our editors this way. They come down from the mountains (okay, maybe apartment buildings) and tell us things we really don’t want to hear. Some of it is easy to hear … but a lot of it is hard to listen to.
No one wants to hear from another person that the thing you poured your blood sweat and tears into for the last year has a gaping plot hole or, in my case, I totally overused pronouns and really need to go back and think about their usage a little more.
Worse yet, it’s hard to accept that magic didn’t fly from your fingertips and every paragraph is as beautiful as spun silk.
And sometimes, even if you are completely in love with the work you have put down on the paper, you hear from people that what you wrote is just complete garbage. Your beta readers and your editor will be the ones to tell you that. And it will sting!
It is going to hurt and you are going to want to kick things. But, such is life.
What do you do when it all looks dire? Simple really. Get up, dust off your chaps, and get back on that horse. You may not like it, but the work won’t get done unless you do it. I recently heard a holocaust survivor talk about what things were like in his time at a concentration camp. He really had an amazing story to share. But what was fascinating is that he reminded the children in our congregation that they had to take control of their lives and make it their own. Make yourself into who you want to be, because you have that chance. As a teen, he never got that chance.
I want to be a full-time author. So, as much as feedback can hurt, I’m going to do it. Ultimately, it’ll make me a better writer. As John the Baptist came down from the mountains to try and make us all better Christians, my editor comes down from a one bedroom apartment wearing a terrycloth bathrobe to speak the truth to me. At least, that is how I envision it.
-Your Humble Servant,