I met with an aspiring writer who told me that he was afraid to show his work because someone might tell him, “You suck.” I told him that this is the only way that you’re going to improve as a writer. I shared with him my own experiences at being told that “you suck” at writing.
Well my first editor didn’t say that exactly but the fact that he marked out half of what I wrote in red ink made the statement. I remember crying and asking the editor if I had a future in journalism. He smiled and said, “Leilani, you got great quotes and you have access to these people in the story. The rest of the stuff just needs to be tweaked.” I studied his edits, made the changes and then got paid for my first newspaper story. Today the editor is a lawyer and I’ve managed to make a living from writing as well as win some awards along the way.
I was told that “I suck” a lot during my early years starting out. But I took the criticism, made the corrections and learned the craft that has fed me for many years. I encouraged this young writer to show his work to his target audience because that’s the only way he is going to know if his stories will sell. “Ultimately you want someone to pay you for what you wrote,” I told them. “If your friends think your stories need work, that’s the best time to tweak your work before you submit your work to paying publications.”
And if you really suck, I told the writer, then learn now how you can improve the art of writing stories. Don’t be afraid of those words. Take them as seed for empowerment towards learning to get better so someday you’ll get paid for writing.