About two weeks ago I was working in one my favourite coffee shops when I noticed two people at a nearby table with a large manuscript. One of them was clearly mentoring the other. I went over and introduced myself as a fellow writer, and I was told the gentleman was having his work looked at for the first time ever. He had been writing in isolation, and he was having a hard time accepting feedback. I assured him this is natural, something we all experience. The poor man was so distraught, and it brought me back to my own first experiences of reading out loud, sharing, and receiving feedback.
I suggested he read Stephen King on Writing, because he talks about the two stages of writing, the first writing behind closed doors, the second letting the world in. He seemed very uncertain and I left with a feeling that despite our encouragement that this feeling of disillusionment is normal, he may withdraw.
It got me thinking about myself, and I wondered what advice I could have used most as an early writer. I think it would have been great to hear something like this: don’t take yourself too seriously. And by this, I don’t mean not to take my study of the craft less seriously, but to take the work itself, the product less seriously. With time and work there’s constant evolution and growth, and I think I wasn’t really aware of this. I was quite stuck thinking that I had to produce the best now, today, and in a way this was a barrier I was writing over.
How about you: what advice do you think you could have used at the beginning of your writing life?