I Love My Cake

I’ll warn you now, this is not a blog about my love for the sweet dessert.  It is all about a writing class.

Last night I attended what purported to be a creative writing workshop.  I had visions of writing exercises, discussions and a general feeling of togetherness with other writers. That didn’t happen.

During the break we had a choice of chocolate cake (why did I not touch this?) and sourdough ginger cake.  Before I go further I’d like to say this, get between me and cake and you’re likely to be trampled underfoot.  If I turn down cake I’m either ill or dead (well, not quite like that but you get the idea).  Now I was promised the rest of the cake at the end of the evening which would have been a great result, yet I left before collecting it.

Why did I leave free cake?  Because it was the one highlight in an otherwise bad evening.

As writers, I feel we bring our own unique individuality to the art of writing.  Life is a highly personal experience and because of this we have a rich literary history.  Humanity has been very fortunate that storytellers have existed for so long.  I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list as such things are subjective.  We each have our own favourites which we love and cherish.

Last night’s speaker (will remain nameless) had ideas that were different from the norm. Not content to follow their publisher’s advice they went their own way.  I’m sure we’ve heard of various authors trying different publishers in order to get their story into print.  As the author you have to believe in the story.  You need a large amount of stubbornness to get it off the ground.

But what if it stinks?  What if it is a load of rubbish?  Then the stubbornness becomes an issue. Instead of listening, you are ignoring good advice.  Before you know it, you’ve given up your day job in pursuit of something unobtainable.

After reading an extract from his book I had to wait for an explanation for it to make sense.  In the first sentence alone, several assumptions must be made.  Without them the story becomes confusing.  Even with them its was still hard to follow.

After an hour of standing on his soapbox lambasting the publishing world along with reading his material, we had a reprieve. I know I took the opportunity with both hands and I could see many felt the same.

The call to return filled me with dread.  Was the second half going to be as bad as the first?  Were we finally going to get a chance take part in exercises, stretching our literary muscles?  Short answer, no.

Long answer, the speaker felt we did not had enough time to do any exercises.  The second half then was basically a repeat of the first.  More lambasting, more talk of his book, more confusion.

There came a point where I decided as soon as it was over, I was going to leave.  Sure there was delicious cake luring me but it wasn’t strong enough to hold me back.  Willingly staying longer in his presence was not on the cards.

So what did I get from the evening?  I hope that my love for writing never develops into the negative attitude I experienced last night. I also hope I am never too stubborn to take a hint.  In essence then, I hope I will become a better writer than he is, one that is able to listen to constructive criticism and take note.



Photo courtesy of goodhousekeeping.com


No, not that, anything but criticism!

So we writers (at least me, anyway) are a sensitive bunch, especially when it comes to others giving us feedback.  We love to be praised for what we have done, but it hurts on a deeper level when someone pulls it apart and shows all the things that are wrong with it.

Now this sort of feedback depends on many factors such as; personal feelings at that moment in time, relationship with the person giving the feedback, how they are giving the feedback, where they are giving the feedback, etc, etc.  Some feedback is particularly unhelpful, e.g. it was..(insert four letter expletive here).  Okay, so you don’t like it, but WHY don’t you like it?  What was specifically wrong with it that you didn’t like?

Then there are those people who will tell you what they liked, then what they found wrong, finally ending with something nice.  This is useful because it does not leave the writer a quivering mess unable to write a single word for the next week or so.  Constructive criticism, as it is now called, helps highlight areas for improvement.  After all, we are only human so we succumb to human qualities.

If you are a fledgling writer, why not try your local writer’s group?  These are your peers and so they will know when you are being lazy, or rushing to get it finished.  Generally, they have taken some heat for their own work so they know how much it can hurt, if delivered incorrectly.  If meeting people is too much for you, why not join an online community?

What you must remember is this; the best criticism is there to help you become a better writer.  It is not there to destroy your confidence.

And finally, criticism is only one person’s opinion.  It is up to you to decide whether to make the changes.