On Writing: A Lesson in Vulnerability

For my fiction writing class this semester, my professor asked for us to read Stephen King’s book On Writing, the famous author’s personal reflection on writing. Toward the end of his book, he discusses revision and its importance to the art of writing. But King implies something about revision, especially peer editing, that I have seen as a theme in my own writing, both academic and fictional. By giving his story to a peer, King exposes his flaws to the world, but he does so willingly so he can become a better writer and the story can become a better work of art. In a sense, King had to embrace vulnerability and correction to ensure the quality of his craft.

I too have learned to embrace vulnerability as a writer. Like King, I had to allow others to look at my work and comment on it with the understanding that they want to help me make it better. At first, I was angry that some people were so cynical toward my writing, especially the professors on my thesis committee or my peers in my fiction writing class; however, they truly wanted to make it better and help me improve by pointing out the flaws in my thesis and stories. So, I manned up and made the corrections. Now my thesis is a published work, and my stories are significantly improving.

Most people have an aversion to correction, no matter the capacity. Nobody really wants to hear he or she is wrong. But sometimes the best instruction we can receive from others is constructive criticism. Proverbs 12:1 states, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid” (NIV). “Stupid” here means brutish, foolish, irrational—essentially inhuman. I am not saying that anyone that does not take correction easily is foolish. No, taking criticism is hard sometimes, even by the wisest and most humble of people. But by opening up to others and accepting their correction, we show we love others by seeking improvement through a suppression of our own impulsive and prideful desire to grow in a vacuum. Through love, we put “childish things away,” as the Apostle Paul states, for children eschew correction and vulnerability, and transform into men and women ready to serve our Lord through our writing and our lives.

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Posted on May 5, 2013, in Aesthetics, Art, Christianity, Meditations, Stephen Parish and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. It’s funny. I’d write a piece and never change it for some irrational fear of ruining it. Now I edit always. I’ve never been scared of criticism or constructive feedback however I don’t know if that’s confidence in my own writing or an openness to learn. There can be a tendency to get feedback from family members which is nearly always positive, which simply reaffirms your own ideas of being the next big thing.

    I’m sure King’s wife is really supportive of him as well, she always reads his stuff and has rescued manuscripts from the rubbish bin.

  2. Well put. I’m having my first book manuscript reviewed at this moment. When the first response came back, it took quite a bit of psyching myself up before I could bear to face it. The funny thing was, once I started reading the comments it was no big deal; before, thinking of someone saying, “you shouldn’t do it like this,” was extremely painful.
    I suppose it’s because our writing is always an expression of who we are, so if feels personal even when it isn’t.

  3. Being open to criticism is generally wise, and criticism of one’s writing is no exception. But there is another side of the coin. The critics must themselves be people of wisdom, and people who understand and are sympathetic to the writer’s aims. Otherwise what they say may be more distracting than constructive, more discouraging than enabling. Be harmless as doves in your reception of criticism–after you have been wise as serpents in choosing your critics!

  1. Pingback: On Writing: A Lesson in Vulnerability, Part Two | Lantern Hollow Press

  2. Pingback: Do You Love to Write? | Lifein64SquareFeet.com - A Writer's Survival Blog

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