Thursday, November 10, 2016

Let Your Writing Wounds Lead to 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.
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 very helpful. Feel better already! Thank you.

  2. Unfortunately, I've crossed all four of these... You're right that they can turn into disfiguring scars fast! So thankful for the writing friends who were able to speak truth into my hurts and help me discern between feedback that was helpful and hurtful. They really helped me cope and grow and move forward. It's just so vital for writers to know that things like overly harsh critiques/judges do not define their worth as a writer. We really have no idea where that overly hurtful kind of comment comes from or what's going on in the life of that person. So to anyone dealing with that right now, please, please don't let that sink into your heart. You were called to writing for a purpose!

    1. Emily, those are wise words, thank you so much for sharing! Blessings, E

  3. Hi Edie!
    I have come across all four and they're all called Carina. I can be my own worst enemy. Or rather, should I say that it's the devil telling me I'm worthless, therefore everything I can produce will be just as worthless. Thank God I'm learning to discern such lies!
    I'm only just now, after +30 years of being basically paralysed and silenced by that demonic critic, BEGINNING to step out in faith and say no more to that! I've been creating stories for as long as I remember, reading voraciously since I learned to read, which by God's grace happened before entering first grade. I've been writing since I was 8, but the devil caused such a deep sense of shame that I've hardly ever been able to SAY I wanted to be a writer, let alone, show my work to others.
    The passion for writing stories could never be quenched, it has also grown stronger, though gagged. The stories which I haven't been able to put on paper YET, have developed in my mind, and God has shown me many things about myself and exhorted me through these fictional characters who all look a lot like me or a lot NOT like me.
    I would greatly appreciate your prayers that God will somehow get me out of the prison of self. Self-defeat, self-sabotage, and even self-confidence. Because ultimately, I'm trusting He will do it in me and through me.
    Thank you!

    1. Carina, you're taking a brave first step! I will definitely be praying for you, and I now that others will too when they read your post. We've all battled those enemies. You are not alone in this fight. Blessings, E

  4. As usual your wisdom is spot on and timely! I constantly battle whether God has called me to write or it's only me wanting to write. I find it hard to persevere when I'm questioning so often. Thanks for your passion forGod and writers.

  5. I haven't come across these four in particular, but I have had a conversation with a well known author who unknowingly disparaged the subgenre of writing I primarily write for. Logically I knew it was one person's opinion and that there were best-selling authors in working in my subgenre so obviously thousands of people disagreed with this one opinion, but as I had admired this person for years it wounded deeper than it should have and took longer than it should have to overcome. When I finally shared the comments (without revealing names) with other respected people in the industry their responses put the final salve on and I was able to completely move on. Your tips for healing from a Toxic Critique Group describe exactly what it took for me to move on. Great Advice!