Monday, February 9, 2015

Robin Black on Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone

"When dealing with responses to work that helps one evolve and change and grow, missteps and all, the voices of encouragement should not only balance those that are critical but negate them entirely. Not because one shouldn’t ever to listen to constructive or helpful criticism, but because in the specific case of writing that takes you out of your comport zone, and that seems to have succeeded for some readers, there is no role for voices that may push you back to where you feel safe."

I most certainly cannot speak more eloquently on this topic than Robin Black does in this wonderful essay, so I will just note that for me, one of the most exciting critiques ever in my writing group was when half the group loved my story and half the group hated it (though they were slightly kinder in their phrasing). I remember thinking, Wow, I must really have something here.

On the other hand, while it’s one thing to aspire to write a story that creates such a dramatic and divided response, admittedly it’s more daunting to consider the three-five-ten years it takes to write a novel and hope that half the people who read it “hate” it. But, honestly, that has be better than if they merely go “eh,” right? I want to believe that “bold” is always rewarded, somewhere and somehow, and that’s the job of the artist anyway from the get-go, to be bold.

My assignment to myself as I work on this chapter revision in the coming days is to step outside of my comfort zone and to push, hard, to reach down into that hard dark core of experience even as I feel myself resisting. Like it or hate it…but my mission is to make you feel something, dear reader.

Oh, and my other assignment:  to re-read Robin Black’s story, “if i loved you, i would tell you this,” referenced in this essay, and one of my favorite short stories in the world, from the collection of the same name that is firmly placed on my Favorite Books bookshelf.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.