(I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and writing about it has become a necessity. If you’re not into rants about life, this is a post you should skip. You have been warned.)
It seems elementary, and some readers may not need to read/hear it. Personally though, I do. I’m my own worst critic (so far, anyway), and I know I’m not alone. I’m talking to the people who beat themselves up over their mistakes – whether in their manuscripts/art/workplace or in life.
Don’t beat yourself up. Be kind. Plenty of people won’t be, and you have no choice but to meet them. The critics will always arrive on cue, shoulder-to-shoulder with the naysayers. Whether they’re internal or part of the great beyond outside your own head, deal with them in the best way you can – the spectrum of appropriate response ranges from ignoring them to telling them to shut the **** up – but don’t add to them. Give yourself a break.
You will make mistakes. That’s a given. The only difference from individual to individual is the kind of mistakes you make.
Maybe you sometimes create a best friend character for your MC one-dimensional. Your lovely betas/agent/editor point this out, and it’s so spot-on that you cringe. How could you have missed that? Of course that character doesn’t have a personality – she just echoes everything your much cleverer MC says, and she never expresses any emotion other than supportive concern. You can’t believe you didn’t see it before. You can’t believe you’ve sent off your ms to your beta/agent/editor when it was in such awful shape, et cetera.
Or for those of you who might not have manuscripts in your life, maybe a boy breaks your heart, and after the weeks/months/years pass, you realize how wrong he was for you and the life you needed. All those annoying quirks of his come to mind, all those little hurts he inflicted, especially the ones he never noticed. You realize that your friends were right about him – he’s exactly like so-and-so you dated in high school, who was also all wrong for you. How could you have not recognized that? How could you have failed to see the pattern??
If you think along those lines, STOP thinking like that. Be kind to yourself – and be gentle.** Don’t blast or ridicule your own manuscript/actions. You did the best you could at that particular time.
You can’t be anyone other than who you right now.
It is impossible for you to be a more accomplished writer or a more perceptive person than you are at this moment, and maybe you’re not meant to be. Life is a journey. Every mistake is a learning process; everything is a growing experience. Every day, you can develop into a better writer/person than you were yesterday.
You are still GROWING. You won’t be the same writer/person at 25 that you are at 50, or the same at 62 that you will be at 92. You can’t decide who you are at this moment, but you can definitely pick the direction you’re headed in.
The past is behind us. You cannot change it, but the future is in your hands, waiting for you to shape it.
**Notice, though, that I don’t say baby yourself. Babying yourself is not fully acknowledging the mistake, ie. failing to grow from the experience. Doing that helps no one, but least of all yourself, because it keeps you from improving and deprives you from finding out the kind of better writer/person you can become.