"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." -- Ernest Hemingway
Ironically, I choose an introductory quote from a revered author I simply can't stand; I finished his Pulitzer Prize- and Nobel Prize-winning novel, "A Moveable Feast" and sat back in utter consternation. He's a genius because everyone said he was but I just couldn't see it. Some of the worst sentences ever constructed. I had much the same reaction to Kerouac's "On the Road" though for different reasons (I've never believed drunkenness or any altered state is a legitimate muse).
Anyway, the point is that writing isn't easy. I know a lot of you, especially those who frequently contribute to GirlsAskGuys (much appreciated, by the way), have big dreams and aspirations. I have no interest in squashing those dreams. The last thing I want to do is destroy a young writer's enthusiasm because without drive and determination, it's a frustrating, disheartening and ultimately hopeless journey. Keep writing and keep hoping.
However, those of us born with a gift for - and love of - the written word must learn to accept suffering. Hemingway wasn't being literal, of course; he was merely referring to the hell even the best writers must traverse. The subtler, more obscure, yet much darker torments come later but for now, most of you share the same major hurdle: Criticism and rejection. You will - you must - experience both during the course of your writing career and in fact, if there is to be a career, you have to have a very thick skin.
It doesn't help that you're in an educational system where you're taught that nothing is ever "wrong" or "bad," especially in the realm of artistic subjects. Granted, subjectivity is indeed a huge element in all art but despite what your educators drill into your heads, quality is not subjective. Personal preference and opinion have no bearing on quality. Simply because someone says they like a Big Mac more than a fine filet mignon doesn't make the Big Mac a superior piece of meat. Just because "50 Shades of Gray" sells a gajillion copies doesn't magically make the writing good. It sucks. It's trash. Half of you could probably write something better right now.
The point is, you will make mistakes and the quality of your writing simply isn't up to par yet. You will learn this in the rejections you see from newspapers, magazines, literary agents, publishers, etc. Of course, if you're only interested in the selling aspect, you need to do a lot of market research and pen something that satisfies current demand. That's far more about timing and positioning than it is about quality; "50 Shades" didn't get big because of quality, obviously. It was the subject matter that turned heads.
In regards to your writing skill, you just have to understand that unless you're Tolstoy reborn - and trust me, none of you are, as such people come along once every hundred years, if that - you require work. Lots of work. What you submit, even if it isn't loaded with glaring errors, probably could be improved upon in multiple ways. Again, people today are graduating high school and college with literary abilities that might be the lowest they've ever been in this country's history. Read letters college students wrote home to their parents at the turn of the 20th century, if you want to see the depressing decline on shocking display.
All this means you'll have to work that much harder and accept that much more criticism. Take it to heart and make everything you write better. It's very, very hard to do this when your writing is so very close to you, but you need to create some distance between your work and yourself. During the learning process, you have to somehow find a way to throw every ounce of yourself into a piece and when it's done, you have to step back and appraise. More difficult still, you have to step back and let others appraise. If it's not good enough, it's not good enough. It doesn't mean you're not good enough; it just means that particular piece didn't cut the mustard.
You will fail. You will write dozens, maybe even hundreds of things - articles, stories, books, etc. - in your early years and most likely, nobody besides your friends and family will read them. J.K. Rowling's first "Harry Potter" book was rejected by virtually every agent and publisher in the UK. Some of the finest books in history were never even recognized until decades after they were written. This isn't for the faint of heart. A lot of it is a freakin' crap-shoot, especially when it comes to actually selling your work (because again, you have to combine quality with marketability). Luck does play a role.
But if you want to become the best writer you can possibly be, the best thing you can do is grow a skin that would make a rhinoceros jealous. Be proud of what you produce but be ready for the feedback. Be secure and confident enough in your abilities to take that feedback and implement it into the next thing you write. Then you will learn to discriminate; you will learn that not all feedback should be implemented, that not all of it is helpful. This is a process and the only way you can progress is if you accept the following: The starting point and the end point are probably a lot farther apart then you ever envisioned. So take it slow, do your damndest, and don't get down.
Who am I to issue such advice? A nobody, really. Just a lowly journalist who has published in both print and media, who won a short story contest, who wrote a few plays, who will be looking to sell a completed novel later this summer. Just lil' ol' me, who at 22 thought he might indeed be the next Tolstoy if anyone just had the brains to notice and who, at 37, is now a far humbler yet even more determined amateur writer.
My reply to "this just isn't very good" all those years ago was indignation and dismissal. My reply to the same feedback now? "No? Then I'll make it better."