The Writers’ Slaughterhouse

Part of being a writer is facing judgement from others. Roxana Riaz offers some advice to deal with being judged.

There are new writers who believe they are brilliant.

To put together a structured piece of work with a good message and a beginning, middle and end with a decent arc and having that final full stop is indeed an achievement. Whether one is brilliant at it or not might be best left to the readers to decide otherwise that very ego might be the downfall of the writer. The ego closes the gates of learning and stops the aura working like a sponge. I know many fantastic writers who when asked if they think they are brilliant answer: I know I can write. When ego is tamed it can work as a huge motivational companion especially for the drier seasons of one’s pen.

One thing the world is good at is judgement. I personally find this incredibly interesting. Irrelevant to rightness or wrongness, justified or unjustified, fair or unjust; every individual out there bases most of their perception upon judgement. What Buddha and Eckhart and Osho and Gibran and the like say seem to be a new way (although they are really talking of the ancient and a natural state of being). People of the world are perfectly programmed to do more than just witness. They judge. Whether it be the cake they are tasting, the hotel they are staying at, their sister’s outfit, or your writing…the first thing they do is to judge. The ideologies of ‘First Impression counts’ are part of this programming.

The most ready victims for this slaughterhouse are people who dare to present their passion to the world. Artists, writers, actors, dancers. They, who are courageous enough to attain a skill in exposing their souls, will be judged. Of the masses in the world some will adore them, most will not. Rarely will they appreciate the victim’s journey. Or show mercy in order to not kill off their enthusiasm.

I am not talking about constructive criticism. The world is a cruel slaughterhouse for artists. Especially for writers whose work can be kept for the private scrutiny of any Tom Dick & Harry.

The world is a court case for the writer in which he is the convict, the jury, the witness and the judge. And before any of us slay his reputation, he is already convinced that he is the worst writer in the world.

And then we have the editors; bless their hearts as they have a ‘job’ to do.

In early 90s I did a comprehensive 19 months research on fifteen different cultures, religions and cults to portray the unifying denominator among them; the connection between their feasts and celebrations. This included cultures from Mithraists and Aztec to Shinto, Pagans, Christians and Moslems and everything in-between. I submitted my 400 pages book 105 times until one publisher in the United States accepted it and assigned an editor to me. She edited out 320 pages in the first week! In every email she reiterated: “Pagans sell nowadays.” So she just wanted a small book about paganism that sells and not a comprehensive and researched study of fifteen different cultures!

Of course I understood her position and was grateful for her time. But as the writer of the work, I had to withdraw my submission as what she wanted to sell defied the purpose of my hard work. I self-published it eventually. In those times books were only sold as hard copies. The burden of the cost of production nearly finished me. And I only sold 40 copies. So that was the end of that adventure.

You can only imagine how deflated I felt. But I continued writing. The adventure was a separate entity to my writing. I have since written 43 plays and many articles. And along the way the judgement has continued brutally. At the end of the day the hurt one feels from hearing the condemnation of one’s work is minute compared to the ruthless attack a writer applies to himself on an on-going basis. Only if we could receive the knocking of our work on the same level that we take the praise. Both these judgements from the outside world ought to be taken as if you are watching news on a screen. Easier said than done!

They are out there and the magic happens in here. We get hurt, of course. If wise enough, we take what can be taken as useful criticism and try to modify and enhance our style. Praise can be as damaging, mind you; as a false inflation of ego can be detrimental for future quality.

Best to remember that our writing is an entity separate to the judgement we receive and to keep on writing…keep on writing…keep on writing.

Founder of bohemi Project and Sacred Savouries. A playwright, director, producer and trainer of dramaturgy, she boasts 44 original scripts.

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