The Neediness of a Writer

Criticism can be harsh, demoralizing, systematically deranging; tearing at the very fibers of sanity. It can also be that very push one would need to keep writing, and writing, and writing, until the criticism becomes a battering-ram of perpetual reminders that is just a part of the process. Writers deal with criticism, it’s the nature of the beast. Writers also learn from it, they know how to manipulate their words to meet the needs of a particular audience. It is innate of them to know that any critic just wants them to succeed, and through each failure a critic subjects a writer to, that writer is reminded that they have to revise and try again. That’s what writing is all about, an elaborate way for one’s voice to be heard. It’s cathartic and stressful, and at times egotistical; but once a person obtains that voice of a writer, it is good to know where that voice began.

And where did it begin? The very nature of that question rests in the basics.

The Writer’s Web

An exercise to practice that’s most likely taught in the elementary days of school is crafting a writer’s web. Have the main point in the center and branch off supporting points that give the article a backbone. Think of the scariest most disgusting spider and visualize that as the image of the main point. Doing this will not only spark creativity, but will also mentally prepare oneself to tolerate critics, in a sense that they have arachnophobia. After this is done, it will be easier to visualize the direction of the article’s content with no worry of it being criticized. Just stick to the point and supporting points just like that spider would to it’s web.

Baiting the Audience

Now that the web has been weaved, consider the type of audience that will be lured into the material. This is when the spider navigates the web and strategically places it’s “hot spots” for optimum capture. Such as the spider, the writer must deliver the content in this manner. Although keeping this in mind will grant for a better directed article, it will subject the writer to a peculiar stalemate with what to write. Opinions must be supported with facts or taken as footnotes along with the facts. The idea is to keep the content focused and not have it deviate from the main point. A solid method to writing is establishing the point and following it with an example to help the reader understand the point.

An example would be as follows:

Point: In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, there is a violent subversive determinism toward the right to kingship.

Example: Macbeth exercises this by believing the witches prophecy, and acting through his violent methods to obtain the reign; contrary to letting the prophecy fulfill itself.

The witches in Macbeth resemble prophetic fate that in turn, Macbeth acts upon by his violent nature. This brings the notion that fate is determined by character, regardless of truth.
The witches in Macbeth resemble prophetic fate that in turn, Macbeth acts upon by his violent nature. This brings the notion that fate is determined by character, regardless of truth.


There is a process to writing anything, and that process starts with a brainstorming exercise (such as the writer’s web). This practice ignites the ideas and correlations to those ideas that will become the final product. A cacophony of thoughts usually ensues, which brings that borderline between losing sanity and doubting why write in the first place; but sticking to the material and the knowledge of it will ultimately determine its success. To really convey these thoughts, a draft must be devised. This is where that crucial element, the hook, can be practiced and refined. By writing a draft, it will make it a lot easier to see where the article is heading and where the focus might deviate from the point. After revising, have someone read it and give feedback. Take into account that this is a type of criticism called “constructive criticism,” an editorial practice meant to recognize aspects of the writing that may have been overlooked. In any event that criticism is given, take it as constructive criticism and have it nurture the tolerance for that nonconstructive criticism.

It’s all in the Wrist

Writing style is something to consider as well. The approach to the piece may turn some people off, it could be in the manner that it was written or in the way that it was delivered. The saying “it’s not what you say, but how you say it” holds true in this regard. Lawyers make a killing in the court room with this approach, just watch Law and Order. Some styles are important to build off of, such as being clear and concise without the overuse of words. It is better to write it how one would say it, rather than cluster the sentence with unnecessary details; however, this falls back to the audience that is being addressed. In creative writing, style is relative to the writer and what he or she is trying to convey through their writing. In terms of news and media, it’s based on factual content. A suggested source for a new perspective on writing style is Performing Prose: the Study and Practice of Style in Composition by Chris Holcomb and M. Jimmie Killingsworth. This book gives insightful knowledge of different approaches to writing. It takes an in depth plunge into critically thinking about various styles and linguistic conventions, its applications and its relationship with the reader.

Now that the basics are covered and all the preparation to produce a solid piece of writing is completed, there is that daunting angst if anyone will actually find the finished produced worthy of a good read. At this point, there is nothing one can do besides wait until feedback is given. Writers are defined by this process. It cultivates their skill and makes them better writers. Here are some pointers to build a tolerance for criticism and use it as positive growth for writing.

Don’t Take It Personally

Critics usually come from a well-established background based on the subject matter in which the finished product is written about. They are criticizing either the content, or how the content is presented. This has nothing to do with the writer as a person. This type of criticism can appear to be directly insulting, but in actuality, they do not even know who the writer is, nor do they care to insult the writer. A professional critic typically cares only about the material that they know more about, and wants the writer to know that. As a writer, viewing criticism objectively is crucial.

Readers are Good

A writer wants people to read their work and critics are doing just that. Relish in this fact, even if they butcher the final piece. This is just one more step in making improvements to have the writing appeal better to the audience.

Ask Questions

Improvement always begins with reviewing what went wrong and correcting those wrongs in the best way possible. This is best achieved by asking questions about the work, to analyze the mistakes. Asking questions also opens new perspectives and angles that may hold insight for a better written piece.

As long as the writing is grammatical and stays focused, the rest is up to the writer’s confidence. It’s confident enough to engage the field of pen and paper, so getting out there is half the battle. Stick with the basics and continue to improve based on feedback and intellectual study; and never quit. Criticism is meant to shape the writer’s voice. It is the public that they are ultimately writing for (besides themselves), listen to them and take it in stride.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Rutgers graduate with a B.A. in English.

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  1. A lot of people are interested in ‘being a writer’… rather than having something they want to say…

    • key.peepp

      I’ve always found that very interesting. You meet so many people saying things like ‘I’ve got this great idea for a book if only I had the time’ or ‘I’ve always fancied having a go at writing, i reckon I’d be pretty good’ but nobody ever says ‘I have a great idea for a string concerto but…’ or ‘I reckon I’ve got a few really good paintings in me, if only the kids would give me some time to myself’.

    • Because everyone can write, in a literal sense. It’s almost impossible to function in the modern world without being able to do so. It’s hardly surprising that many people wonder whether they could do more with it.

  2. Writing is easy, as one said, “You just sit down and open a vein.”

    • Susanna

      Nah. Writing is enjoyable. Tell stories about things you know and love, for an audience you love. The time I spend at the keyboard is precious. I can get lost for hours in alternate reality. I say write a lot, GET IT EDITED, stick it online, and derive a reasonable income. In the right reader’s market quantity trumps quality.

  3. Joel Zook

    Great topic suggestion and article. Thank you for bothering to formulate this and write it down.

  4. Jacque Venus Tobias

    Thank you, this was well written-the fly to the spider.

  5. Griswold

    Write for yourself. That’s my best advice.

  6. I would love to be a writer but I don’t have the talent or the fearlessness needed to cope with the financial instability that writers live with. Bugger!

    • Why not get a better-paying job and just write in your evenings / downtimes / etc?

  7. The cult of writing will kill writing….

  8. Writing is a rigorous and therapeutic exercise and comes naturally.

  9. Aurelia

    In a world ruled by evolution, writing should help you to breed, otherwise it’s a failure. Go for the money.

  10. I gave a lecture this week at my old university on creative writing and self-publishing. I spent just one minute talking about the ‘craft’ and the rest on how to format an ebook correctly how to handle Amazon/Lulu, as well as how to approach agents. I felt this was the best information I could share as it had real world application.

    How to write, what to write, and what makes good writing…that’s a mystery I wasn’t going to solve in 90minutes.

  11. i wouldn’t say i want to be a writer, but i want to write better and am thinking of a creative writing course… i think i have some affinnity with language, but am concerned because i (at least as yet) have next to no idea on how to write like someone else. i.e. despite reading poetry and having an idea of how it works, i am not naturally picking up anything from that. does anyone want to comment on this – sarcastically if you like but not just to make me feel bad.

    • Thigpen

      That’s not a bad start, in fact. You are expressing your own thoughts and feelings and making a direct request for help. It speaks to me because you have written from the heart and not tried to strike a pose, which is a common fault both on these pages and more generally among would-be writers.

      Maybe you should just keep on writing, using it to work out what you think & feel, and have the courage to ask a friend whose views you respect to read it for you. But also learn to critically re-read and revise what you have written.

      Write whatever comes to you – don’t push the river, as they say. If you find poetry hard to write, then write prose. Perhaps write a journal, or practise writing descriptions of things, people and events.

      I’m not sure what you mean by having an ‘affinity with language’, but maybe you just like trying to express yourself, so I suggest you carry on.

  12. Munjeera

    Writing has taken on a whole new expression online. A way to express oneself and reach millions and connect worldwide in real time sometimes. Writing about writing is another story and requires self-reflection about the process. But it is so individual it is great to compare notes and see how writers create. Great article.

  13. Norbert Bane

    This is my problem: I write well, I just have nothing to say.

  14. This was enjoyable to read.

  15. I think having someone you trust to peer review with is also very helpful. Getting constructive feedback without all the cute snark the Internet has mandated.

  16. riockwell

    Writing’s a bit like teaching – no, really! You can’t ‘teach’ people to do either, but you can tease out the latent competencies that aspirant teachers & writers have & give them the tools to do the job better & ‘fail better’ & better &…

  17. I agree with pretty much everything mentioned in the article. As a writer, I have often been in this kind of situation, that is, receiving feedback and having ambiguous feelings. On the one hand, it’s always hard to know that you have not succeeded in your aim, but on the other, it’s very enriching to learn how engaging more deeply with your reader. I think I can take criticism very well, and I am grateful for that because I know so many people who take it personally.

  18. I’m always slightly eager to share what I wrote with others, but at the same time, I am afraid to be judged, afraid to hear anything bad about something that I worked so hard to create. But then I always tell myself that the only thing that’s getting hurt is my ego: the work of art I produced is simply glad to have been brought to life.

  19. Writing can be demanding, both physically and mentally, especially in today’s technology. Call me old fashioned but, to write with pen on paper, thereby lies the challenge. This can be physically demanding, what to write about yet satisfying when the “flow of words” begins and that voice in your head gives you direction. Then the hard part, to edit, how many rough drafts, can we write this better, too many words, doesn’t make sense, no flow, not interesting. You are your own critic!

  20. Lauren Mead

    Finding a writing mentor in your field of interest is a big help! I think it de-mystifies the process.

  21. Every man at least once in his life faced with the fact that he needed to write an article or review or essay. However, it often happens that one paper you like, and the other less or at all boring and you do not want to write about it, or simply do not have time. In this situation comes to help the expert author.

  22. Vertov.Isou

    Remember that critical acclaim is not the mark of a writer. It certainly can be, but as long as one is writing one is a writer. I think a robust confidence can be derived from that simple fact. Stop aspiring and start writing. To write badly in the beginning is proof that one has taken the first step toward the critical acclaim that most people seek.

    • I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. Some of the comments on this article indicate the kind of derision that keeps people from attempting to write in the first place. There is a lot to be apprehensive about when first starting out on this journey. Everyone has something worthwhile to say, and everyone has a story. It is more about having the tools and confidence to begin sharing.

  23. Criticism is the toughest challenge to overcome. Reminders like this help to deal with the negative emotions that one conjures up. Thanks for writing this piece.

  24. Writing, for me, is essential to my repertoire of expression. You have speaking, singing, painting, sewing, writing, giving, creating, cooking…you get the idea. Sure, it’s nice when someone actually reads it and says something positive about it, but deep down within the person who is motivated to put their thoughts, feelings, and ideas to a permanent venue, it’s a basic instinct to stand back, look at your work, and realize, you did this for yourself first. Hopefully, it will benefit others as well. If not, that’s OK. Your writing changed, helped, etc., you.

  25. Indeed, I found it necessary for a writer to have a sense of hopelessness as an acting force that drives them towards a singular final product. What scares me the most are the countless directions any book I am writing can take, and it does not matter which is the right one, because which ever one I choose will be the one I was meant to write in the end. At least, I try to find comfort in that thought. Very good article, I needed to read that.

  26. This was a really well done article. Very encouraging to me; I wish I had the time to write more.

  27. Writers definitely get attached to their work, which is why it is so hard to be an editor and give constructive feedback without destroying the writer’s self-esteem. However, in my experience, I find critique to be the best thing to improve my work. I relish in having my pieces torn apart and examined closely. There is something satisfying about having someone else delve deep into my work; it makes me feel more like a writer. Whether the critique is positive or negative, at least it means someone is paying attention to the thing I labored over to produce.

  28. I never take any criticism of my writing personally. I think if you’re going to get upset by what others think of your writing, you’re in the wrong arena because you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I have joked about some comments made about my books, one in particular who called my two-part vampire novels “vampire porn”. That second book in the series also prompted a review from who I later found was a failed writer himself; he went on and on about how things weren’t explained in it and he was lost – all would have been clear if he’d read the first book. It honestly makes me laugh at the silliness of it all. I can illustrate the reason I keep writing with an incident that happened after I had just given a talk on one of my novels to a Vampire society in London. A woman about my age came up to me after the talk and said that she had lived in London all of her life but had never been to the National Gallery, but after reading about one of the paintings in my novel (I use it as a plot device; one of my vampires is featured in the painting), she went to the exact room and found my vampire staring back out at her from the painting and a shiver ran up her spine. That’s why I write and keep writing.

  29. Alot of people really do fail to realize the work and thought one has to put into a piece.

  30. Practice is important with writing. Keep trying and you will get better. I enjoyed the points made. Especially the one about not taking criticism personally which is something I’m working on.

  31. I’m glad someone actually wrote about this because i feel like more people need to understand the elements of being a writer and the stuff that comes along with it

  32. ReidaBookman

    This is a beautiful article! The title certainly caught my attention. All writers can understand feeling needy at some point, particularly at the beginning of a project. First drafts are a delicate time and that was well illustrated here.

  33. Constructive criticism does definitely help shape the writer’s voice and as you say – not personally.

  34. Stephanie M.

    “Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly…” 🙂 Great article, especially the part on criticism. When my writing is criticized, I always have a moment–or a few–where I respond in my head with, “You idiot. I’d love to punch you right now.” But once that passes, it’s helpful to ask one question. “Are different critics saying the same things?” If yes, those probably need fixing. If not, I find it a little easier to pick and choose what to change.

  35. I love the idea of sharing my writing with others, but unless I am 120% satisfied with it, the thought of showing anything sub-par to someone I know for help is terrifying and something I am working to overcome. There is such an expectation for writers to always be perfect, that people don’t grasp just how much time and help goes in to getting it to that standard.

  36. I love criticism. Criticism sticks in my mind, reminds me of what certain audiences liked or didn’t like, and guides me towards an engaging story. I always remember what people didn’t like about my pieces, and remembering these comments stop me from making the same mistakes. Criticism is always more helpful than praise because it pushes you to do something better, but it’s nice to be told every once in a while that you’re a “good” writer. I need criticism because I need help to distance myself from my writing. Emotional attachment is my greatest weakness!

  37. LucaTatulli

    Criticism is integral to any writers work. We can never improve as writers if there is no criticism we would simply never improve.

  38. Joseph Cernik
    Joseph Cernik

    One weekly newspaper I wrote for in the 1980s, the editor told me that people told her that once they submitted something she could change nothing because, according to several these people more or less saying the same, God’s hand was involved. Her regular response was, “Well, let God publish it.” Feedback, response, review, whatever word feels comfortable it’s all the same thing and once you get past that fear where you believe someone will simply say, “And you think you can write, well you can’t” then it is OK. This is what you want to get across in class. I talk about revising essays frequently. Admittedly, it’s a hurdle that has developed, unfortunately, through too many courses (usually in high school) where enjoyment was not stressed as part of the writing process. Rediscovering enjoyment and, perhaps, success, worthy goals.

  39. I have been posting my work on the web for a while now and I couldn’t agree more about the importance of peer review and analysis.

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