My Worst Writing Fear: Ridicule
I wrote my first book at the age of six, carefully printing the words in an orange spiral notebook. It was about a group of naughty children misbehaving in school. I illustrated it with blue ballpoint pen. Deciding I was finished, I scrawled The End, then abandoned my masterpiece.
Days later, my sister and her friends discovered it.
Fists clenched, I listened to her giggle to my mother about how they had taken turns reading it. This first audience did not please me. They thought my book was a joke, and it wasn’t supposed to be funny.
I was furious, embarrassed, and hurt. Despite the cavalier way I’d tossed my creation aside, I cared about it. Hearing it mocked stung. I never forgot how that felt.
I didn’t stop writing, but I never lost my fear of sharing it. The memory of that derisive laughter echoes in my head whenever I hit the publish button.
Writing is invasive, an excavation of the soul. When finished, it becomes your contribution, your purpose for living. It’s you. Criticism is an unwelcome intrusion.
Writing my first novel, The Playground entailed reliving the past. Based on my childhood bullying experiences and its aftermath, I felt brutal honesty was required to increase awareness about the ongoing trauma suffered by victims. This meant reopening old wounds andrisking the same kind of rejection I experienced as a child, a frightening prospect.
Publishing my novel was both terrifying and exhilarating. It wasn’t something I could take back or undo. What if I regretted it? Sending it out into the world was like jumping off a cliff.
The initial reaction was overwhelmingly positive. My novel was a hand reaching out to others who were also suffering, to let them know they are not alone and what happened was wrong.
Sometimes I receive notes from readers telling me how deeply my book touched them. They always arrive in the nick of time, just when I’ve begun to question my vocation, to reassure me that all the hard work is worth it.
Then there’s the criticism.
It’s inevitable, and that’s why we writers fear it. Any book that inspires great passion will eventually be hated by someone.
The negative reviews hurt, but I try to take it in stride. I may shed a tear or two, but my book continues to sell. That’s the important thing. I concentrate on the good and try to dismiss the bad. It’s silly to focus on a few negative reviews when they are outnumbered by the positives ones. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
Criticism is the first sign of success. Rather than signaling failure, it’s a sign you’ve arrived. People are not motivated to write a negative review unless you’ve awakened their emotions. All great artists receive their share of criticism. Occasional negative feedback is the price youpay for doing what you love and sharing it with the world.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to fear criticism, it’s okay to hate it, and it’s even okay to cry over it. Butdon’t let it shake your confidence. Contrary to popular belief, successful people sufferthe most rejection.Instead of giving up, they use it as motivation to work harder.
Writing is a brutal profession. Rejection is guaranteed. But the ability to share your message with the world, reach people in their loneliness, and have an impact on their lives is worth it. Criticism is the buzzing of a mosquito in comparison. Celebrate it as a sign of success.
Shannon T. Heuston was born in Boston, MA but grew up in Westchester County, New York, where she still resides. She first professed her desire to become a writer at the age of eight, when she tried to write a mystery series titled "The Sally Bridgman Mysteries" styled after Nancy Drew. Her first book had Sally Bridgeman and the gang traveling to France and then right away going out to peer in people's windows and spy on them, because, how else would you find yourself a mystery? She would like to believe her writing has grown more sophisticated since then.
This novel is for anyone who has ever suffered bullying. Rachel Parsons was horrifically bullied as a child. Thirty years later the memories of the abuse she suffered still haunts her. What happened on the playground? And why can't she forget it? A book that explores the long term effects of childhood victimization.
Check out the reviews for Shannon Heuston's novel, The Playground, on Amazon. You can also find Shannon on GoodReads and on Facebook.
I had outgrown my old sneakers, so my mother found a pair of white boy’s Nikes with a baby blue swoosh on the sides from Odd Lot, a store that sold brand name merchandise at steeply discounted prices. They cost three dollars, an enormous bargain for sneakers even back in 1985. Happy that my parents were happy, I innocently wore those sneakers the next day, not realizing that life as I knew it was about to end because of this fashion misstep.
I had no idea I had just committed social suicide until Alicia, the gorgeous girl I had been trying vainly to impress, wrinkled her nose at my blinding white shoes. “Are those from Odd Lot?” she asked.
Instinctively, I knew to deny it from her tone.
“No,” I said, forcing a smile, “I’ve had them a long time. I just haven’t worn them.”
I was hoping I could trick her into thinking I had bought them before they’d been marked down and condemned to the discount bins.
Darren, the boy who had asked me if my refrigerator broke because I ate all the food, materialized like a dog scenting blood. Bending down with his hands on his knees to get a closer look, he chortled, “You’re a liar! Those sneakers are so from Odd Lot! I saw them in the three dollar bin when I went shopping there on Saturday with my mom.”
My cheeks burning, I drew my feet in beneath my desk, wishing I could pull them up inside me like a turtle withdrawing into its shell.
“Definitely from Odd Lot,” was Alicia’s final verdict, presented with a toss of her perfectly coiffed head. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in sneakers from Odd Lot.” She swiveled her ankles to show off the delicate gold colored sandals adorning her feet. “These came from Bloomingdales.”
La-di-da, I had no idea what that meant anyway. I knew nothing of brand names or stores. If you said Banana Republic to me, I thought you were talking about a country whose main expert was bananas.
“Are you poor?” Alicia asked me bluntly. “Only poor people buy their sneakers at Odd Lot.”
“No,” I breathed, horrified.
I quickly scanned everyone else’s feet, for the first time observing something absolutely alarming. My sneakers were completely wrong. Almost every other kid in my class wore the same sneakers, white low topped Reeboks with a jaunty British flag stitched into the sides and the brand name stamped on the back in blue block letters. Even Jason, who was studying a book at his desk with way too much concentration not to be aware of what was going on, was wearing Reeboks.
I was an alien studying human life.
The feeling that had swept over me the first day of school, that everyone else was speaking a language I didn’t understand, was back. Everyone was in on the joke together. And I was all alone.