Imagine for a moment that you are asked to give a review to a fellow writer. The binder full of printed paper sits upon your lap, a notebook beside you slowly filling with notes and questions as you flip through each new page. You love the story, but suddenly a page introduces a rift in continuity that causes you to pause, flip back a few pages and scratch at your head. You mark down a question mark and a note and move on, hoping to enjoy the rest of the story undeterred. You take hours out of your day to write notes, point out flaws and do your best to make sure your fellow writer and friend have all they need to make the best product they possibly can. You hand it to them with a bit of anxiety but you tell them how much you loved the story.
Now imagine this friend of yours comes back to you a week later to discuss the rough draft. You ask if all of the feedback made sense and in a single sentence you find yourself wondering why you bothered to help them at all. “Oh, I didn’t change anything. The story is meant to read like that.” It’s like nails on a chalkboard.
As a fellow writer, I understand that nobody likes to be told that they did something wrong in their writing. It’s absolutely natural to become slightly defensive over a project you have taken so much time to create. But as I have said before, don’t fear the editor. They are there to help you. Yes, there are times when a single edit may be invalid in the review, but a full dismissal of the feedback is detrimental and bluntly, a harmful and immature response to someone who has taken the time and effort to try and help you improve.
Just because we find ourselves the masters of our individual written universes, does not mean that the rules of grammar, spelling and language do not apply. Do not get me wrong, rules are meant to be bent and pressed against but there is a limit. When our writing “style” becomes a hindrance to the audience’s understanding, we have stepped over the line from individual style and into the dangerous territory of producing bad literature.
As a writer, we cannot simply ignore the way our writing is perceived. No matter how frustrating it may seem to be given constructive criticism, we have to keep in mind that as the author we can become hobbled by our own imagination. I call it a writer’s blind-spot. We are so engrossed in our own creation that we sometimes miss the flaws or miscommunicate our intended visual for our readers. It’s the same concept you find when people are capable of reading a sentence with missing letters or words due to their familiarity with the phrase. We become so familiar with the story we are attempting to tell that we sometimes miss the mark on making sure others can understand the content.
We need our readers and editors to take us down a peg so that we can see the flaws or misconceptions that have found their way into our work. When they give you a review of your work with notes regarding a lack of information, editorial issues or other such flaws, we need to listen. Now does that mean every single thing they say is law? No. But disregarding their feedback only alienates your intended audience.
So before you utter the phrase “It’s just my style” to the kind soul who has taken the time to edit or review your writing, check your ego at the door and listen.