Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Turning Writing Wounds into Wisdom

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

We writers wear our hearts on their sleeves, metaphorically speaking. We pour our inner selves out on the page, drawing on the highs and lows of life to interpret the world through words. This is an exhilarating journey. The highs are incredible, and the lows…well…they’re tough. If we don’t take time to process the difficult experiences, those writing wounds can leave disfiguring scars. But when we do evaluate what’s happened, there is wisdom to be found in those writing wounds.

Writing Wounds
1. The Vicious Critique: This one can come from a long-time critique partner or just someone random. Regardless, it’s a blog that can set us back from our writing goals if we aren’t careful. 
  • Tips for Healing: First of all, consider the source. We can tell if a harsh critique comes from a friend who didn’t realize the sharp edge her words carry or someone trying to build their own expertise. Next, think about what was suggested and decide if it’s valid. Remember your writing is YOURS. You get to decide what suggestions to incorporate.

2. The Harsh Contest Judge: If you’ve entered a writing contest, chances are good you’ve run into this wound. Generally this comes from one of two types of people. Either a writer who’s trying to build his own credibility by being overly critical, or someone who really doesn’t know the industry.
  • Tips for Healing: The best way to move on is to follow some of the same steps as healing from a vicious critique. But in addition, use this experience to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Contests are tough because it’s so difficult to find good judges. Take the hard knocks you’ve encountered to become an excellent judge and help others avoid this wound.

3. The Form Letter Rejection: This can be everything from a poor copy of a form rejection letter, to a post-it note on an index card. It feels like what you sent was so bad, it didn’t even rate a civilized no. In ninety-nine percent of the cases, that’s not the truth. This wound has much less to do with what you submitted than the fact that the editor is overworked.
  • Tips for Healing: Realize rejections aren’t personal. The editor (or agent) doesn’t have a place for what you submitted. It’s not a judgment about the quality of the piece, but a matter of whether it fits or not. The best thing to do to recover from this wound is to send out your submission again. Get back on the horse, and don’t give time for doubt to take over.

4. A Toxic Critique Group: This wound differs from number 1 because it’s more relationally driven. There are lots of things that can make a critique group turn toxic. But whatever the reason, the results can be devastating. This wound can keep writers from trusting a group and really delay meeting writing goals.
  • Tips for Healing: First, find someone to talk to. Sharing your experience can help you process what happened and validate the wounds you’re carrying because of it. Trusting someone with what happened will also lead to learning to trust again.

5. The Voices in Your Head: Yeah, this one’s a big one. A lot of writers don’t realize it, but they are their own worst enemies. Allowing negative thoughts about what we produce to run rampant, can kill the writer in us.
  • Tips for Healing: Stop it. It’s that simple…and that hard. Replace those negative thoughts with positive ones. We need to be as careful about what we say to ourselves as what we say to others.

No matter which wound you receive, take that painful experience and make something good out of it. Look for other writers who have visible injuries and extend compassion and understanding. Take a chance and share the things that you’ve overcome. This will help others who are in the process of healing, and it will help make your own recovery complete.

I’d love for you to share your own stories of healing from writing wounds. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!



  1. This is such excellent advice.

    I received a harsh critique once (ok, twice) that I let derail me for the moment. I was ready to quit writing altogether. But, fortunately, after I dried my tears and wiped my nose, I chose to separate out my emotions, take what I felt was valid, and let God use the pain to help me evaluate why I was writing -- so people will love me and love my writing and thus validate me, or to point people to Christ.

    I decided to take what happened as coming from God's hand of love to strengthen me and my writing and keep me focused on the true goal -- His glory, not mine.

    I need to keep this article handy because wounds are going to come to anyone who writes, because as you said, we wear our hearts on our sleeves -- it's part of the job.

    Plus, we're dealing with humans who are go through stuff -- and stuff may have been happening in their lives at the time they gave their critique. It might not even have anything to do with us.

    Thanks, Edie! Your advice is so helpful -- as usual!

    1. Jean, great suggestions! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Blessings, E

  2. I've learned that placing faith (and unrealistic expectations) in the wrong people can wound us and derail our efforts if we're not careful. Sometimes we think the very people we are closest to will support us the most. These might be the same people we have supported, encouraged, and promoted.

    God has shown me over and over that sometimes our greatest blessings come from the most unexpected sources.

    1. Andrea, love your insights! Thanks for sharing your heart, Blessings, E