Tuesday, February 2, 2010

They're Only Words

"Words can never hurt me." Can someone tell me who came up with that and what kind of psychedelic drugs they were on when they penned that phrase?  Seriously! 

As a kids book writer, one  works with words all the time and let me tell you, they are not easy to deal with. Actors may have a hard time working with kids and animals, but writers can have an impossible time with words. By turns, these wild untamable creatures can be unpredictable, uncooperative and rather tempremental. Like wilful children, more often than not, they don't do what you want them to do. So when you're finally get them to cooperate to form  coherent sentences and a plausible plot, you're finally able to heave a sigh of relief, put a story to bed and get some much needed relaxation before the chaos of printing and post production.

But that's not the end of the story, so to speak, once printed you have to get the book into the stores and hopefully into the papers and the school libraries, which brings me to the topic of hurtful words, wounding words. Ok, I may be a hypersensitive author, an insecure one, that's for sure. I'm wracked with insecurities, always have been, always will be. Imagine Woody Allen at his most nuerotic, that's me times ten.

If someone compliments my work, I find it hard to swallow, but if someone criticizes  or rejects it.  I take it more to heart and a tsunami of insecurities,self doubt crash over me. I take everything the critics say to be 100% spot on, regardless of the fact that someone else may disagree.

Today an international school sent me a seemingly pointed and harsh email. saying that they found my book unacceptable on all counts: the artwork, the storyline, the flow - everything.  I suppose it was meant  as constructive criticism, but after reading it I felt like I had been decked in the face. I've accepted constructive criticism before but never criticism that's left me feeling in need of major reconstructive surgery.  Now after a decade I'd like to think that I've learnt a thing or two about children's books, not much but a thing or two.  Now I feel like I don't know anything at all. My question is  should I focus on what the library committee members of this one school say, change everything about the way I write or should I stay true to myself? Words can never hurt you, yeah right. Maybe, maybe not. I know you can never please everyone, that is impossible and there'll always be critics. So what should I do?

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