Thursday, October 9, 2014


Today, the negative attitude of a stranger discouraged me. The frustration at his critique of my work stung like salt poured on an open wound. 

The greatest fear of a writer is not misspelling a word or placing a semicolon incorrectly; these are aspects of our craft which can be easily fixed. A writer's biggest fear is rejection.

Writers are strange creatures. Blank pages are our canvases, and words are our paintbrushes. We have the ability to adorn a blank piece of paper with words so intricate they can paint vivid pictures inside our readers' minds. Our brains are in constant motion, for a writer never stops writing. 

You may think I speak nonsense, yet think about this for a moment. Every instant in a writer's life may end up as inspiration in one of his or her projects. The girl on the subway who caught his attention might end up as the heroine in his next novel. The lame joke her professor told might inspire a character for her next short story. Even the taste of the coffee we drink in the morning helps us decipher how to describe the way it caresses our taste buds. Writers are always writing. Whether they take notes on paper or in their minds is a completely different story.

I do not fancy myself a particularly gifted writer. Quite on the contrary, actually. I still have much to learn about this craft I chose for myself. Whenever I think about it though, it feels more like it chose me. 

Ever since I was a little girl, writing was always something I was good at. My parents knew it. My teachers knew it. Even my friends knew it, and they usually tried to bank on this by convincing me to help with their essays.The funny thing is I never saw writing essays as boring. I never gave writing much thought; I just saw it as another form of homework.

The truth is I did not realize I wanted to pursue writing professionally until I was already 20. The memory of that day is vivid. It was a rainy, humid July afternoon. I was spending a lazy afternoon lying on my bed when a character suddenly jolted into my mind. I knew her name. I knew what she liked and what she found disgusting. I knew everything about her. The more I thought about her, the more alive her story became. New characters materialized into my mind in the same sudden way she had. There was no denying it. The story was there to stay.

My passion for writing has only grown in intensity with the years. I sometimes think of my life before my epiphany and find myself confused at what took me so long. It was right in front of me my entire life! Everyone's positive comments about my writing never made me feel one way or the other. I was used to them. Yet, had I been paying more attention, perhaps I could have started perfecting my craft at an earlier age.

Back to the man who made me feel unworthy earlier today. This man knows nothing about me or my work, for he has only read one of my pieces. He has no grounds on which to judge me. Yet, I allowed myself to feel offended by his words for a brief moment. 

Then I thought, "Why does this matter? Why do I care what he thinks?"

The answer hit me like an ice bucket from the ALS Challenge. Writers survive on what complete strangers think of their work. 

We publish our work knowing not everyone will find it amazing. In fact, we are fortunate if even one person finds it so. Most just call it 'good' and move on with their lives never thinking about it again. There is a one in a million chance that someone will use the word "life-changing" to describe a writer's work. Many of us are painfully aware of that.

Criticism is fine and accepted. Offensive comments, however, are not. Especially not from strangers. This dark side of my craft is something to which I will need to become accustomed. After allowing the stranger's comment to get to me, I snapped out of it. 

If I let every negative comment discourage me, I will never hear the words I dream of hearing from a reader someday: "Your work was life-changing for me." 

I know I have not yet written anything worthy of being called "life-changing", and that is perfectly fine. One day I will. If there is a one in a million chance of my work being called "life-changing", I will be that one in a million. It does not matter what strangers think; what I think is what matters. 

If your career choice is more sensible than mine, odds are the probability of you making your dreams come true is also much higher than mine. Therefore, if I refuse to give up, what is holding you back? Is it somebody else's opinion? Is it social norms? Whatever it is, do not let it stop you. Be that one in a hundred, one in a thousand, or even one in a million. It will not happen overnight, but if you stick with it and are persistent it will happen.

So, stranger man, you are probably not going to read this. However, in the one in a million chance that you do, I would like to thank you. Your offensive comment motivated me even more to write a piece worthy of being dubbed "life-changing".

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