What It Takes: Teachability

Blog Post 60 What It Takes TeachabilityIt all started out well enough.  I got my first novel under contract in November 2011.  The following year passed as if in a dream as it went to production.  Then came 2013.  Sales were slow.  I didn’t get paid the royalties I was due.

Then the publisher turned down my next manuscript.  I didn’t mind.  I had plans for it.  You see, my main purpose when I headed to a writers’ conference that spring was to land an agent.  The first agent rejected it but left me an encouraging note (see last week’s blog).  The second agent?  She requested a proposal.  I submitted it by the deadline, even battling through a bout of the norovirus to do so.  Six weeks later, I received the response.  “Your writing is almost there.”

Okay.  I did what she suggested.  I sent it off to a content editor.  That summer, I received the edits.  In the summary, she listed all sorts of things to do.  The only bright spot?  I used commas well.  And then there were the 500-plus comments.  Talk about a blow to my pride!

I’m sharing this with you because 2013 was the year where I learned how critical having a teachable spirit is to becoming a writer.  When I got my first novel under contract, I thought I’d made it.  Turns out my journey as a writer had just begun.

All of us struggle with pride, and writers definitely do.  It’s easy to see why.  As writers, we pour hours into our work that stretch into days and months, sometimes into years.  Our work becomes part of us.  That’s why it’s hard when we get critiqued or when we get bad reviews.  The critique of a writer’s work, by extension, can become a critique of him as a person.

It remains critical that we be teachable.  How?

Learn how to take a critique.  Remember that a writer receives a critique because she asks for it, be in a class, a writers’ group, or via an editor.  That means that it is important for her to listen to the feedback, even if it’s poorly presented.  That can be hard due to the emotional investment in the work.

Learn how to give a critique.  Chances are good that as a writer, you will be asked to provide a critique.  Do so in the same manner in which you would want someone to do with you.  Yes, tell them what’s wrong, but provide them with potential solutions.  Better still, tell them what they’re doing right as well.  Do all of this in a loving manner.

Keep learning.  As a writer, it may be easy to think that if you’ve reached the point of publication, you have nothing to learn.  I disagree.  A writer who refuses to learn more about the craft ceases to grow.  Attend conferences with learning in mind.  I did that this year, as did many other published writers, some with several titles to their names.  Read books about the craft.  Keep writing and using your work in progress as a proving ground for new techniques you learn.

Stay humble.  It’s important to keep a teachable spirit, and this revolves around remaining humble.  Sad is the day when pride and haughtiness begin ruling a writer’s life.  As a writer, you can always learn something.

As 2013 rolled into 2014, that finally seeped into my head.  My agent and I had a near miss with a major publisher.  Rather than letting this end my desire to write, I realized one thing.  My writing was now “there” at a level that was publishable.  God further changed my path when my agent dropped all of her fiction clients and then returned to publishing as an editor.  Now?  I continue learning and growing as I explore the realm of indie publishing.

This post does not mention any products.  Therefore, I am not receiving any compensation for writing this post.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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