Don’t Let Anyone Sink Your Ship!

pirate_ship_sinking

“Dreams are difficult to build and easy to destroy.” ~ Seth Godin

There is much truth in that quote. No matter how thick-skinned or emotionally resilient we think we are, our dreams – especially when new and tender – are fragile things.

Today I want to remind you how important it is to protect those tender dreams, not just from the people you KNOW will stomp on them, but from the people you’d expect might treat your dreams with a little more care.

We all have intuitive instincts that help us to feel what resonates with truth for us, and what does not. This is a cautionary tale about what can happen if your intellect overrides your instincts when a dream-stomper comes your way.

Back in 2012 I took a writing workshop with a well respected children’s author. Part of the workshop involved submitting a short sample of our current work for constructive feedback from this industry professional.

What followed nearly killed my dream…

The story I was working on is a children’s story, a tale filled with fairies and pirates and all things magical. It’s very dear to me, for many reasons. I had considered it to be my best work to date.

Siren Song by Victor Nizovtsev

Siren Song by Victor Nizovtsev

The author’s comments, given in a private ten-minute interview just before the workshop started, were devastating. I felt like bursting into tears. His feedback included that I was trying to write High Fantasy with no idea of how to write that genre, that modern kids didn’t read that stuff anyway, and that I was very Tolkien-esque, clichéd and extremely amateur with no imagination. I reminded him of C.S. Lewis.  He could tell I hadn’t written before. (I’d recently had two completed manuscripts shortlisted and one chosen for a nation-wide writing competition, but I was so shocked by his barrage that I sat mutely for almost the entire time and didn’t defend myself.)

He was disappointed that my fairies had pointy ears. My ideas were classist and un-original.  I was writing stuff that had been done to death already.  I was boring. I had no idea what children wanted. The only positive thing he said was that my sentence structure was fair, and my pacing okay. I certainly pushed his buttons somehow.

How did I react? I wanted to run away. I wanted to take my precious story and my precious characters in my arms and protect them from this angry man.

And really, that’s what I should have done.

But I didn’t. I was a good girl. I’d paid for the class, and I’d been so excited to attend and rearranged so many things to be there that I made myself stay. I sat politely for the entire workshop as this man belittled and ridiculed me in front of the rest of the class.

It was a morale-shattering experience, although I tried my best and did get a few good ideas from the day.

When I got home I emailed my writing group, who were very supportive and helped me feel a little less rattled. Poo to him, I said. I’ll keep writing anyway. Big meanie!

But that’s not what happened.

I started another story, I threw myself into my psychic work, I found a myriad other distractions. And my poor pirates and fairies sat stranded on ships in the middle of unfriendly seas, or trapped in the basements of  grand old buildings, waiting desperately for me to return. Only I didn’t.

I’d lost my nerve.

Lucy and Eustace by Michael Morris tumblr

Lucy and Eustace by Michael Morris tumblr

Who reads fairytales anyway? What makes my writing so special?

This man’s negative and nasty words became a caustic force, quietly eroding my confidence and sapping away my strength. I put my story away, and never returned to it.

That is, until just recently. I found my way back to it through my blog, and the sharing of the unfolding of my psychic life.

You see, the fairies and pirates I write about might only be a story but it’s also much, much more.

So thank you. Because your interest in owls and fairies and magic has helped me to see that some people will care, and that’s enough for me to keep on going.

Poo to that man, the big old meanie. I have fairies to save!

TypewriterGirl-Vintage-GraphicsFairy2

38 thoughts on “Don’t Let Anyone Sink Your Ship!

  1. exactly!! it is possible to give constructive feedback and be kind, otherwise you have encountered an unskillful egoic critic, take what is useful and bin the rest! hugs and encouragement to you and all your readers! sx

    • Hear, hear! And what’s a pirate adventure without a sea monster trying to sink the ship? He may have delayed the journey a little, but that crew would now be an even more sturdy, resilient one I’m sure. Arrrrrrgh. Full sail ahead! 😀 xo

      • the last thing a critic should ever do is discourage a person who is drawn to writing, writing is a sacred process, even if the final product is not for the public, the feedback should build others up and encourage them, not drag them down, otherwise the criticism is pointless and mean! hugs sx

  2. Thanks for sharing, following our heart is so important and the Seth quote just so appropriate
    We have to be so careful of the feedback we get that sometimes kills our passion
    love and hugs keep healing xxoo

  3. I have a friend who was told that she could never be a writer or never be an artist. But she proved her old teachers wrong and is now famous at both her crafts. She talks about when we hear the world no it does not mean no forever it just means not right now and not to give up. keep writing,drawing, singing,playing your instrument etc . What ever it is you love do it. And do it ever day with love and passion. Do not let someone else pull you down. They do not know your heart . You can win just keep trying. Well she says it a lot better then that. But she taught me to be brave and march on filling my heart with what I love to do….You will too.

  4. Wow, I am in shock after reading the things this “expert” said to you! And you paid for the privilege to boot! What a tiny little man. I only hope that you’ve recovered sufficiently from that incident to bring your fairytale back to life, because it sounds awesome to me!

  5. Sounds like this poor man has no magic in his life… you have plenty and are such a beautiful writer as well. I can’t wait to read your stories to my grandchildren. Much love xxx

    • I second this comment! It sounds like he had a “classic” case of jealousy. I’d be honored and thrilled to be compared to two of the best known and loved children’s authors of this century (truly… what other writer has such lasting and widespread appeal and is still alive today? Rowling, perhaps, but her century isn’t even up yet.)
      I love your writing, read fairytales more than any other genre, and strongly believe in your work. Please keep going 🙂 !!! You have magic in you.
      Blessings, love, support.
      Mia

  6. I did the same with a manuscript I carried around for almost ten years. I finally gave it to my son who also writes and said…here ..you finish it. And he has been working on it and will soon publish it. Could I have finished it? yes…maybe not how it should be finished as it is based on a true crime story…I taught the killer’s son in K. But, my son has a perspective on it that will bring it full force where it needs to be as he worked 911..and so another side is slipped in.
    I am glad you are starting back on your elves and fairies. 🙂 People should never stop us from writing…even if it is not what they think it should be for that is how we grow in writing.

  7. Power to you ! Keep going. I think we can all relate to your story, albeit with a different subject like telling someone a dream or a secret that is belittled. I am very wary of who I tell things to having been burned numerous times. So very pleased that you are regaining your writing ‘mojo’. xx

    PS Have been away and out of mobile and internet so could only catch up intermittently. Love your daily writings. On a couple of occasions what you wrote was very prescient. one example was on crystals. I was in a town and then walked by a crystal shop so doubled back and got some of the crystals mentioned. So thanks again xxx

  8. Not every one loves fairies, some are threatened. Your stories are so magical and uplifting I can’t get enough! Thank goodness this experience didn’t completely stop you and you have returned to entertain and delight young and old!

  9. What a big meanie, I love the unravelling of you stories especially the magical and mystical that the world I choose to live in. So thank you Nicole and keep writing I will have a signed copy when it’s published please.

    Much love, much magic.

    Lynette xxx

  10. What I’d like to call that guy isn’t fit to print here. I love fairies, pirates, owls, magical places, all that stuff. Lots of people do. I think the Harry Potter and Twilight books are proof of that. Perhaps he was jealous that you had a sense of imagination and he doesn’t.

  11. Sounds like the guy from Decca Records, who rejected the Beatles, saying “guitar groups are on the way out” and “The Beatles have no future in show business.” Hooray for getting a quick lesson in who NOT to work with. <3

  12. Hi Nicole.
    Geez, that guy sounded so unnecessarily harsh.
    I remember you talking about that manuscript at your retreat & the positive feedback & response people had to it. Please don’t doubt that people are interested in your work; I know I have been hoping to hear that it would soon be published so I could read it!
    Sometimes being the good girl has really crappy results when in theory we are doing the right thing.
    I’m sad that something that should have been an uplifting experience for you turned out to be the opposite.
    A good old cathartic letter burning process might be in order 😉
    I love your blog. Write on I say!
    Big hugs to you 🙂
    Louisa xx

  13. I love your writing, Nicole, and am so glad that negative vortex of a man didn’t sink your ship – keep it up, I look forward to reading your book!

    Clare x

    P.S. Faeries DO have pointy ears!

  14. You know maybe The Meanie Author Man was right – “children don’t want to read about fairies”. It seems by all the comments left here, there are plenty of adults who would love to read about fairies, pirates and all things magic! Keep putting out the magic Nicole.

  15. Pretty Woman said it best – ‘it’s always easier to believe the bad stuff’. This guy is a tool and I hope so much that I never attend one of his classes.
    I received feedback on my manuscript last weekend and although they certainly didn’t say it was the best thing they had ever read – they didn’t crush me – let’s face it writers are sensitive enough at the best of times. Instead they empowered me to do better. They gave me tips, tools and hope.
    I would love more than anything to read a book that includes pirates – I find them totally intriguing. So get back to it… your audience awaits…X

  16. “Poo to that man”! More like lets put a bag of dog poo at his front door!

    What a hideous, and dare I say threatened, man. So pleased you found your way back not only to your dreams but your love of writing of things that MAKE your dreams seem real.

    Nasty man indeed.

  17. So glad you have re-found the strength of your voice and gift to communicate such wonderful messages. I am so sorry you had to endure the experience with one who may write but is unable to coach/teacher/guide others.

    Am so very happy you get to have playdates with fairies, pirates and their magical tales. May they continue to bring you much joy and strength. xo

  18. That miserable plonker. He does not see beautiful writing when he sees it Nicole . I too have been burned by showing my writing to someone who hadn’t got a clue about creative writing . I am soooooooo careful who I allow to share my work now . I belong t o a wonderful writing group who give me so much praise for work I can hardly believe its mine they are talking about …and YES elves do have pointy ears …I’ve seen some ( not really but tha’ts between you and me and all us lot )
    keep on truckin Nicole xxxx

  19. What a mean man all i can say is that he must have had a bad day!!Don’t give up look what happened to J.K.Rowling!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Harry Potter almost never made it!!Keep on going i say!!!xx

  20. I read fairy tales! I love them and anything associated with magic and fairies and pirates are an extra bonus! May I refer you to points one and two from your post a few days ago. 🙂 Keep going dear one – your story is important. I hope words flow freely from your pen and inspiration is abundant. x

  21. I don’t even consider that constructive criticism which is when a reviewer (hopefully an intelligent person) gives you suggestions on how you can excel the story. Clearly, this so-called author lacks the knowledge to critic professionally and uses his writing “expertise” to gauge money from people just because he has written a couple of books. I am a writer. I would never have time, nor would I make the time, to establish a paying writing class simply because it would take time from my writing.

    I am so sorry this happened to you. I’ve been reading your posts for a few months now and I find you a very nice person. I like your posts, too. 🙂

    So pick up that manuscript, blow the dust off and begin again!

    Wouldn’t it be extreme karma if it were to become a best seller? I’d definitely send him a copy.

  22. You write beautifully and from the heart – I’m so glad you got past those insensitive and boneheaded remarks. And I also adore fairy tales. One of my treasures are the two big, beautifully-illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tales books. The spines are busted and there are dirty fingerprints on the pages, but they are treasures.

  23. I am so glad you have found your way back to your story. I wonder why some of us are so easily pulled from our dreams because of someone else’s words and opinions. We give others so much power. I have had similar experiences with my singing. I am in my 60s and sing at retirement communities for those who can’t get out and hear anymore. Voice teachers have said I’m pitchy and can’t sing harmony and I almost let it stop me from singing. But singing brings me and those I sing to such joy, I persevered. Please persevere, Nicole. You are too precious to allow someone else to keep those words locked inside.

  24. I love fairies with pointy ears! So glad you are picking up the pen or keyboard and writing your charming stories which we all love to read. I can’t wait to hear more about the owls. I always love your writing and look forward to each blog or post that i receive in my inbox. Keep at it dearie!

  25. I’m so sorry you had that experience, and I can well imagine how damaging it was. This is exactly what stops me from having my writing scrutinised by a professional critic, it could be the thing that puts an end to all my writing. When you’re writing things like this you put your heart and soul into them, the characters are dear to you and the story is part of you, and to have it criticised like that it like having someone judge you yourself. It sounds to me as if this chap was extremely insensitive and if he was unable to give constructive criticism he shouldn’t have given any at all, in my opinion. The comments on your blog are testament to how interested readers are in what you write. You write brilliantly, you have a special gift for it (as well as your psychic gifts) and I sincerely hope you don’t let anyone stop you from fulfilling your ambitions. You need to write and we need to read your writing, and poo to him, as you rightly say.

  26. Oh Nicole, how heartbreaking. I cant believe someone who writes for children could be so soul destroying. I cant wait to read your stories and I love fairytales too (so does my daughter). We NEED them to remind us of the magic that’s in our world that we close off to. I had a soul destroying experience with my writing many years ago and it has haunted me ever since. My stories were chosen for publication in an anthology of young writers when I was 16 and when the book was launched, it was one of the best days ever. A well-known children’s author was the guest speaker at the launch and singled me out saying that I was the kind of writer he wished he could be. I was so happy that people liked something I got so much joy from. I decided to study journalism and creative writing. Yet the following year when I was at university, and still 16, my creative writing lecturer tore my writing to shreds. He was a published author himself and apparently widely respected. Such was the shock and hurt that I’ve never seriously gone back to it. I became a journalist when I never really should have. I left the magic of imagination and story telling behind for a different kind of story telling that was (mostly) negative, competitive and highly pressured. I should have been a creative writer. I realise that now, and I know that lecturer was a big factor in me turning my back on it. But its not too late. I still remember the joy that writing gave me way back then and I know that gift is still there, waiting for me. I love that it has never given up on me even when I had almost given up on it. I realise that dreams never leave you. And I’m so thankful for that. Especially one as wonderful as writing xoxox

  27. Poo to him! Clearly the man has all kinds of other issues. There was probably something in your story that triggered something in him that has nothing to do with you. That being said, how unbelievably unprofessional and downright mean.

    Know that you are a wonderful writer, an amazing storyteller, and a beautiful, caring wonderful human being. I feel very sorry for that man.

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  29. What an arse! Sorry but how mean to attack a person who has paid money to learn, and exposed to soft underbelly of a fledgling story, only to have it ripped apart.It reminded me of my needlework teacher making me unpick, and unpick( I never wore the skirt. I cut it up when I took it home).thank goodness you didn’t destroy your creation Sadly not all teachers are created equal,and gladly modern children seem to quite keen on” High Fantasy”.Not entirely sure what that is, but surely Harry Potter,Lord of the Rings, Vampire books.all fantasy.He was nothing better than a bully.Bring out your wee folk and pirates!

    Wendy Austin

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