Why is it that the slightest obstacle throws us into a state of discomfort and despair? Why is that the slightest shift from our norm takes us back to all those times when we had failed or thought we had? It triggers our memory and we remember all the hurtful things people have said or done to us more than any praise we have received from that same people or any achievements we have ever accomplished. What’s worse, we remember how we felt at that particular moment. As Maya Angelou said:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
We are quick to remember the embarrassing moments from our childhood, from our high school years. We remember the people who made us feel that way, even the minutest details, their facial expressions. But the most hurtful moments are the ones when our friends let us down when we least expected them to. It’s the criticism from the people close to us that hurts the most.
Lately I have been blogging about what writers have said about their fellow writers over the years. We all know that critics can be harsh on writers and on some occasions, bad criticism has turned some writers to despair. Some have not been able to write anything worthwhile afterwards, or they have even stopped writing.
It’s a well known notion that as a writer you have to have thick skin to keep on writing. But if the criticism comes from fellow writers who are especially cruel and their words really sting, as my good friend Susan said:
“I think I’d be crushed if one of my favourite authors said something like that about my writing.”
But hey, it hasn’t always been that bad. Paul Valery called Poe “the only impeccable writer,” while Herman Melville said “Ralph Waldo Emerson is more than a brilliant fellow,” and Leo Tolstoy thought of Anton Chekhov as “simply wonderful.”
Their praises may be fewer than their criticism, but I would like to think that things have changed for us writers over the years. We are not always jealous of our fellow writers. Or are we?