Thin Ice!

Posted: May 17, 2015 in Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

A writer’s life is not an easy one.  I have spoken in the past of how a wordsmith is beset with rejection.  But there is another issue, and maybe I am alone in feeling like this.  Every writer has a fierce protection of their work.  They spend hours, days, months working on things, even a short story can take so much time and mental agility to reproduce.  from idea to concept to finished article, it is a process that at any stage the ice beneath their feet can crack.

That is the best analogy I can think off.  Imagine a writer’s journey is getting from one side of a frozen lake to another.  Some, take a sensible option and walk around the edge. tentatively writing their work, checking, stopping for lunch, reviewing.  The issue with walking the water’s edge is one does not dip their toe in, and the lake could turn into an ocean and they never produce anything for the public to see.  Most, however, take a more direct route.  They walk straight across.   This is a tried and tested path.  The writer will sit and observe others walk across the lake, they make it look so easy.  Sitting on the bank and watching as the successful wave to you from the other side, beckoning you to join them.  So, you have an idea and take the first steps across the ice.  Your footing is solid, very firm underfoot, confidence grows so you take another step and another.  The idea develops and you start to write.  The ice begins to creak, that artificial straining and cracking sound all around you. So you cautiously walk further.  It is too late to turn back, some do though, they then take the long path, but you don’t you bravely carry on.  Nearing the centre of the lake, which to me represents the end of a first draft.  This is where it gets very precarious.

At the middle is often where the ice breaks for me.  And I am using the ice as a metaphor for confidence in my writing.  I show my draft to someone, doesn’t matter who it is, I show the draft or enter a competition, and when the inevitable criticism comes the ice cracks a little more.  I listen to the help that is offered, and crack, crack splash, I have fallen through the ice.  The water is cold, as is my mood, I feel like I cannot get out, so much effort went to get to the middle of the lake, the water is full of writers in the same situation.  Eventually you get back to dry land.  The process starts again.

This is what happens to me, it is how we react to the ice breaking that determines how successful we are.  I wouldn’t change the criticism I receive because at the end of the day, each bit of advice I get makes the ice a bit thicker.  I do, however, react badly to the advice.  Why?  because of the effort I have put in.  it seems that someone is attacking me and that I have wasted my time. But I look down on the ice and I see my reflection, I see all the hopes, dreams and aspirations in that ice.  I look up, and I see the writers all on the other side of the lake, waving, beckoning me and again I take those steps out on to the thin ice.

  1. Lucy Goacher says:

    As someone who (I presume!) has gone to town on your thin ice with a mallet in the past, I apologise. But, you know, it’s usually for the best. I always lash out after a critique – ‘You just didn’t understand what I was going for. YOU’RE wrong, not me.’ – but after a while I can pull out the advice and objective opinion and use it to improve my work.

    Try to remember that a draft is a work-in-progress: it’s not perfect. People will always find errors in it. I showed my parents a few chapters of my draft as I wrote it, but then they had to wait over a year for my edited second draft. That’s when I felt comfortable sharing it with them – when I’d had time to work on it. And to get there, I had to face some hard truths about my skills as a writer.

    Peter, when the ice has broken and you’re in the middle of the freezing lake, advice isn’t an anchor wrapped around your ankle; it’s a rope to help pull you out. But YOU have to be the one to grab it.

    • I am not one to give up, what I neglected to mention about crossing the ice was sometimes one finds yourself standing on the edge of the hole with a new, more solid path to walk over. Each time the ice gives way the ice comes back slightly stronger, slightly thicker and the swim can sometimes be invigorating…rejuvinating, adding a sense of purpose.

      It wasn’t meant to be a pessimistic post.

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