Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reality

I asked my husband to read a little something I wrote. It's rare I do such a thing, because A) he's one busy dude and B) he's not my target audience. But he humored me. And when he didn't offer an immediate comment, I thought maybe my piece had touched a soft spot in him, in a way he had to absorb before sharing. That maybe he was moved by my talent, proud to have such a creative wife.

I finally asked his opinion, ready for praise. [Insert ego here.]

"It's way too detailed. Reading it wore me out."

I admit I was surprised--that's not what I thought. And then a little bummed--because that's not what I thought. But I didn't argue, didn't get defensive. I considered his simple words, and came to decide I was okay with them.

Because I'd asked to know what he thought, and I needed to be a big girl about his honest (if blunt) feedback. And because my potential is not hinged on his sole offering.

But mainly? It was a lesson to me. That among the good critiques and supportive comments, there will be those less so. That there will be people who don't like my writing. And I have to accept that. That's the reality.

Have you had a similar dose of reality?

44 comments:

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I know that many people use friends and family as beta readers and even editors.

I stay as far away from that nonsense as possible, lol! I have writing friends that I met and connected with over writing - they are my betas. And when I want ample, extensive feedback and critique, I hire a professional. I have found that even constructive criticism from someone close feels personal. I'd rather be one-degree removed from people who help me along this journey.

That's just me.

Jessica said...

You're right. You asked and you got it. :-) But it's good you know he's not your target audience because many people like detail. YOu were brave. :-)

Rebecca Nazar said...

I've felt the reality. My mom, dad, and husband, although they are very supportive, aren't crazy about the genres I choose to write--literary and fantasy.
When it comes right down to it, we need only impress the editors of the mags/publishers we submit to. That's the brass ring, so to speak.

God is in the details . . . :-)

Stina Rose said...

The very first time my husband read my work (we had only been married a few weeks) he made a blunt comment. I have to admit that I didn't handle it with the maturity that you showed. I cried. I mean, I really cried (and I don't cry alot). He felt so bad that he was hesitant to even read my writing for months after that for fear of starting the waterworks again.

I have gotten much better (I've grown a thicker skin, I think), and my husband is no longer afraid of giving me clear feedback... though I still think he holds back a little.

JKB said...

Definitely. Also my husband. Sometimes his idea of what my book is about is rather different than mine. And that...is very different.

But you're right! You asked, you got. :-)

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I don't ask my husband to read my stuff anymore for similar reasons, but I like honest advice and I once heard that 30% of people just won't like you for no specific reason at all.
Here's to the 30%! :D
~ Wendy

Janna Qualman said...

Amy - I suppose it works for some, but I'm with you. I think it's crucial to have that team of colleagues and professionals who can give knowledgeable insight... not just opinion. That said, I still like having various favorite people read my stuff. Just have to take their comments with a grain of salt, and then move on to that industry insider. :)

Jessica - And I don't want him to be my target audience! If it were up to him, I'd be writing about ninjas and lasers and sharks. LOL

Becca - Absolutely. That's the whole point, right? And I really take comfort that God is in the details, too.

Stina - Oh no. Oh no, no. Poor guy. Poor you! I'm glad he learned his lesson. ;)

JKB - Men, eh?

Wendy - What an interesting statistic! And kind of relieving, too. Just because we can set that number aside focus on the rest.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I definitely have people close to me who won't like what I write--if they ever get to read it on the shelves! I'm definitely not giving it to them before then; I don't need that turmoil of wondering if they're right and if my story really does stink. :0)

Jenny Greenleaf said...

Oh yes, this has happened to me. You took it much better than me, though, because I have a very difficult time with criticisms. I need to get over that though because, as you've mentioned, there *will* be people who won't like what I write (as much as that reality pains me so!).

Lynnette Labelle said...

This won't just happen with critiques. Once your book is published, there will be people who love it and others who don't. That's life. We can't please everyone as much as we'd like to. ;) In this case, keep in mind he's not your target audience and may not have a feel for the genre. My husband certainly doesn't read romantic suspense, so when I do let him read my work, I'll definitely keep that in mind.

Lynnette Labelle
http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

JLC said...

As you know, I write science fiction, so hubs is interested in my stuff, but he is still very honest about my writing and rarely ever reads a piece without some criticism. Often it leads to a discussion with me defending my plot and him defending his stance. But in the end, he has offered a lot for me to chew on before I make my edits.

My !WORST! 'beta reading' experience was when my father fell asleep reading one of my SHORT stories for the first time. PFFFT!! That stung a bit, but it was also a piece that hubs and everyone else loved so I didn't take it to heart. I also know that my dad prefers historic fiction.

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, it constantly amazes me how similar our husbands are. I forced him to read the one shot story I got published and he said something very similar to your husband.

I seem to get a lot of praise from friends, which makes me suspicious, so I LOVED it when my mom told me she didn't like my sci-fi flash piece. It gave more value to her praise for the other stuff.

ROFL @ ninjas and lasers and sharks!

Janna Qualman said...

Kristen - Definitely a draw to keeping a WIP under wraps! :)

Jenn - I've always been too tenderhearted, and I think this writing journey has so many benefits. I've got to get as thick a skin as possible!

Lynnette - The whole "not pleasing everyone" lesson is one I have to remind myself of often.

JLC - Oh noes! I bet he felt horrible! I made the same mistake once, read something aloud to my grandma, who fell asleep barely into it. That's a whole different set of circumstances there, but it still hurt just a wee bit.

Melanie - My mom, too, is subtle with her praises. Whether it's conscious or not, I appreciate it, because it gives me that moment of pause when I remember to keep both feet planted on the ground. And yes. Maybe we should do some genetic testing on our husbands. ;)

Lazy Writer said...

Oh yes! It's not always a bad thing. In many instances, bad feedback has helped me make huge strides in my writing.

septembermom said...

When my husband reads my poetry, I always think that he is afraid of my questioning after he's done. He usually looks like a deer in the headlights. He doesn't really get my writing. He always tells me that he knows that there are those who "get me". He's not much of a reader anyway.

Tess said...

Oh, I sooo relate here! My husband read some of my WIP, got all pensive and quiet and then said, "Orange cats are often male."

What?!

I mean, it had a tiny, teeny bit to do with the passage - but, seriously? That's all he could offer?! At the time I was ruffled, but now I just laugh.

Jody Hedlund said...

Oh VERY true!!!! I love this post, Janna! We can't please everyone with what we write and we can't even try.

Barbara said...

I cringed when I read your post. I always suggest to new writers not to show their work to loved ones. It's not that it's not possible they'll love it. Or be supportive. It's that there are too many other things tied up with your husband in particular, other emotions and baggage. It's not a clear read. Plus, 9 times out of 10, they're not WRITERS. And even if they are, they write something ELSE. Best to allow those people love us in other ways and let our target reader friends give us advice.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I've let some of my family read my stories and unless I asked, they just handed the stories back to me without saying anything. When I asked they said, "That's okay." I wanted to head to my shredder!" I've learned, except for my husband, bless his heart, and my writing group, not to give my stories to anyone I know.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Is your husband by chance an engineer?

I find family is not always the best for assessing my work. Sometimes for encouragement, but if I want solid feedback, I need a fellow writer. A good one.

Nadine said...

Your husband and my husband would get along great!

Lady Glamis said...

I've had that dose of reality several times, and it hurts. Stick true to yourself, and take what advice you can grow from that won't ruin your voice or your true writing style.

lakeviewer said...

More than I want. My husband refuses to read my stuff because he is way too critical; and of course, I do get hurt and sulky even though I try to be mature about it.

Janna Qualman said...

Lazy Writer - That's true. Good stuff can come from it.

septembermom - Yes, that's it! I think so often that my husband doesn't get it. Not just my writing, but everything that goes into it... the physical time, the thinking, the networking. He rolled his eyes when I mentioned a new blog I'm following. To him, it's play. To me, (well - it IS play sometimes) it's research and effort. Only other writers get that.

Tess - ROFL! He sounds very practical and matter-of-fact. *grin*

Jody - So important to remember!

Kathryn Magendie said...

This is so true -- and something writers who will have their work published must take to heart.

There's books I didn't enjoy that many many others loved - and I'm sure there's books I loved that others go "huh!" well, we're all right *smiling*

If someone gives me a critique like this that stings, I look for the truth in it, and see if there is truth in it, and if so, I go from there ... if it's personal preference only, I let it go...but sometimes even in personal pref of a reader there are truths, so I make sure I'm open to that.

Janna Qualman said...

Barbara - Your phrasing is so perfect! "It's not a clear read." Well said.

Donna - No! No shredders, lady.

Midlife Jobhunter - LOL, great question! No, not by title. But by definition, very much so. And thanks for visiting!

Nadine - From what I can guess, they'd have food in common, too. ;)

Lady Glamis - Absolutely, we MUST stick to voice and style above just one opinion or two. Great point!

lakeviewer - You sulk? I pout. :)

Kat - That's a lot to think about. Thanks for sharing your tips!

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh yeah. try posting your query;) LOL not everyone is going to love everything we write. Hopefully though a ton will!

Debbie said...

Ouch. That would sting. But, you have to be thankful for the honesty.

The Things We Carried said...

My husband thinks I am a fabulous writer, yet never reads my blog... Really! He tells everyone about my blog and my writing. I think what I like to read and write is not his style, though he thinks I am good.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Janna -

My late husband read all my stuff, but he was biased to say the least. The parts he liked were ruthlessly cut by editors. Do I regret showing my work to him? No way. I needed that encouragement and support.

If we're going to grow as writers, we must seek out those in the industry with more experience and knowledge. I think my beloved would see the positive changes in my writing and approve if he were still here.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Janna Qualman said...

Terri - You were brave! And you're awesome.

Debbie - I'm learning to be. :)

Things - He sounds hugely supportive. That's great!

Susan - He sounds wonderful. I'm so sorry for your loss. *hugs*

MeganRebekah said...

Writers have to grow tough skins. It's not fun to hear criticisms (even if we know they're right) and I think it's even harder to hear them from people we love.

Janna Qualman said...

MeganRebekah - True that.

Amy said...

At least you didn't get the, "It's good" response that I so often get from my husband. He doesn't elaborate too much, so I've stopped asking him what he thinks. He has admitted that he often dislikes female writers b/c we spend too much time "describing" things. Oh well. To each his own. Is your mom still living? Because if she's anything like mine, and you do, actually need that ego bump, moms are great readers! ;o)

Melissa Marsh said...

Yep. My dad has read some of my stuff and said it was too detailed, too. But that's ok - he's not my target audience, either. ;-)

And all those agent rejections are a big dose of reality!

thedomesticfringe said...

My cousin's wife is brutally honest. If I ever feel like hearing the bitter, cold truth, I ask her. It's usually painful, but we she tells me something is good, I believe her.

The way I see it, you can't be on top of the world everyday. Some things are just going to be better than others. That's life.

Aren't you glad you're not writing all your books for your hubby? I bet your general audience is easier to please. That's why I don't ask mine! ;-)
-FringeGirl

dirtywhitecandy said...

Ooh, it can hurt, can't it? I once read out short story to a group of friends and when I'd finished their only comment was, 'that was a long story, wasn't it?!' Well, it was about 8000 words... serves me right.

My husband reads my WIPs and he's merciless. He's a writer himself, and a very good one - so what he says is well worth hearing. But he forgets to tell me which are the good bits too, so I have to remind him!

Janna Qualman said...

Amy - He doesn't give you much to work with, does he? :)

Melissa - Agent rejections, indeed. But they make us strong, too!

FG - So she's a little vinegar AND a little sugar? ;)

dirtywhitecandy - How lucky you ar to have a writer in residence! :) Thanks for visiting.

colbymarshall said...

lol- my hubby will never read what I write. Maybe I should be thankful? Haha...but you're right. Subjective is the word.

scarlethue said...

People who love you will be honest with you, and you're lucky to have people like that in your life!

Terresa said...

Yes. I wrote an essay a few weeks ago about growing up in my particular religion. Only later did I realize that there was a backlash against. One person in particular considered what I wrote as offensive.

It was a wake up call to me because I wrote it celebrating my own spirituality, not with the intent to harm anyone else.

Lesson learned: Even writing with the best of intentions (clear voice, honest experiences, etc) can get critical, even negative reactions. Writers need thick skin.

Janna Qualman said...

Colby - Do you think he'd read your book when it's published? I wonder that all the time about mine.

scarlethue - I like your thinking!

Terresa - Wow! That's an epic example right there. Thanks for sharing the story. And good for you, to stay firm with where your heart was when you wrote it.

Deb Shucka said...

Your hubbie's response made me laugh out loud - which would not have been my response had it been directed at me. :-)

Getting feedback is really hard, and it's hard to accept that not everyone will like our writing. How can they not love our words if they love us, right?

I appreciate your conclusions, and your willingness to share this.

Janna Qualman said...

Deb - Yeah, he's a really funny dude. ;)