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Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Serenity



Do you know this little prayer?
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
My grandma used to have this on the wall in her hallway (maybe she still does? I'm not sure), which is where I remember reading it when I was a little girl. And whether or not you personally believe in a God who may grant you these things, it's hard to argue with the basic sentiment. Some stuff, you can and should change. Some, you can't or shouldn't. It's not always easy to know which is which.

I've been thinking about this lately in the context of my writing. I've been getting loads of great feedback on my novel (from friends and strangers alike), and it's fascinating to compare the notes from different people.

I'm always delighted (yes, genuinely) when someone picks me up on a point of credibility or realism. Factual stuff is easy to fix, and definitely worth the effort, every time.

But I was blindsided recently when someone said they didn't like my style.

That's pretty fundamental. And, since I'm someone who will ignore even elementary mistakes of spelling and grammar in a book if the plot is strong enough, it came as a shock to me that someone would stop reading because of something stylistic.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realised that I'm being silly. Not everyone has the same tastes, which is just as well, because life would be terribly boring if we did. I even know a few people who don't like chocolate! (Which is, if I'm honest, completely beyond my comprehension.) So for any given style of writing, there will be some people who don't get on with it.

My writing style is definitely in the set of "things I cannot change". Some people won't like it; I can't change that either. And that's okay.

Serenity resumed. Thank you, God...

32 comments:

Lauren said...

I've always wondered what exactly it is about style that some people don't like. An English literature professor I had used to comment on my papers about style issues, and I always wondered what she meant by it...I guess if I'd been the model student then, I would've asked. Lol.

Writing Without Periods! said...

My grandmother used to have this prayer on her wall. I love it.
Mary

Mademoiselle Poirot said...

What a lovely post... You are of course right, but I'm still waiting for the serenity bit to kick in with me... ;-) Love from London x

Lauren said...

Hey, I just tried to do this and had no success. Saw that you had a "Share This" button at the bottom of your posts. How did you do that? I can't get mine to work. Thanks!

Tabor said...

At least you have mastered the art enough to have a style! I think style is something that can take forever to really master because we copy so many others that we admire.

smilla4blogs said...

Yes, I know the prayer, my grandmother taught it to me. Thank you for the reminder.

Heidi Ashworth said...

You are right, picking on your style is harder than the other things b/c your style is "you". As someone who has one book out there under public scrutiny, it is really hard when people just don't like my book--or even hate it. Thank goodness there were plenty who love it or I would be mush by now. At any rate, you are 100% correct in that everyone has different tastes and likes, etc. There are plenty of things I just don't like that other people love (like apple pie). If you are the kind of person who finds the writing voice to be very important as it is to me (some find the plot matters most--I don't care what is happening as long as the writer's voice is one I love)then that would be hard for that person if they don't prefer your voice. Having said that, there was really no reason for that person to point it out--it's not like you can change it. In fact, it was a bit hateful, in my opinion.

lakeviewer said...

Style makes our writing uniquely ours: the rhythm of it, the tone it creates. You don't want to worry about that; you want to appreciate it.

Dedene said...

It's definitely better to concentrate on things we can change. There is no writer that has a universally liked style. Be true to your own style.

BONNIE K said...

We all like different things. When you hear a comment like that, you have to let it go. I live by this prayer and I am not a religious person. I had done a cross stitch of this when I was a girl and I never paid attention to it til I got older and realized I needed it to guide my life.

Bells said...

No you can't easily change it if at all. It's hard to learn that criticism isn't always something to take on board but you are learning a good lesson there! I could learn it too.

Kazzy said...

"Serenity resumed". I like that. You keep true to your style and enough people will like it!

Holly said...

It is such a personal thing...I know there are many best selling writers that I do not like their style or their stories...you have to remain true to your style. It is not sincere and very hard to not be "you" when you write.

HalfCrazy said...

If you want to please people, ask yourself what makes a good book for you. The style, the plot of course, like you mentioned above, continuous buildup of characters, situations, and places, etc. If you want, you can see books from the mainstream, see what makes them bestsellers.

Of course, you also write to express, just think about the audience you wanna appeal to and from there, think about how you wanna approach that audience.

I'm not a pro writer but when I write stuff on my blog, I make sure that I express whatever I'm feeling. I also make sure my readers won't get bored too. I want them to feel like they're having conversations with a close friend, I'm interested to know about what they feel. I wanna garner some new readers too.

L.C.T. said...

First, I like that prayer. Second, I agree with the lack of comprehension on not liking chocolate!

Anita said...

Thank you Rachel for stopping by my blog on my BON day. I look forward to peeking around your blog a bit.
BTW, as a creative person, a writer, you will never please everyone, but if you please yourself, that can be everything.
I too love your thoughts on this process.

xoxoKrysten said...

To me, writing style is like personality. Not everyone is going to like you and not everyone will like your writing style. That's just life.

I think you just have to tell yourself to keep doing what you love to do. If it makes you happy then yay to that.

Anything Fits a Naked Man said...

I just LOVE the serenity prayer! It's always been attached to something that recovering alcoholics in AA use, but I think it definitely applies to all of us!!

I'm like you, writing is so personal for me, and I feel so vulnerable when I hit that "publish" button! So, when someone makes a comment that's a little critical, it's very hard not to take it personally! I know I need to grow a tougher skin and "accept the things I cannot change!"

Mrsbear said...

I always take criticism a little too personally, but really something like style is most definitely a matter of taste. You can't please everyone and as long as you feel good about what you're producing then the rest should just fall away.

Looking at a picture of the coconut ice as I'm typing. Pretty and yummy.

That was kind of a distraction. ;)

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

The wisdom to know the difference, I think, is the key to that whole prayer. Writing is like any art, it's objective. To each his own. Also, who doesn't like chocolate. That's ludicrous!

Mary said...

I don't mean to sound trite or to repeat the obvious but its been said above all else "to thine own self be true". It's my understanding even WS had a few detractors. We all find our voices in different ways. Keep yours finely tuned. Don't stop singing :-). Blessings...Mary

WhiteSockGirl aka The Fabulous Bitch said...

I have to confess, I also stopped reading books, also blogs, just because I did not like they style. It is subjective, so I won't worry much about it. Cause that is one person, many others, I am sure, might like your book. And the writing style.

WhiteSockGirl aka The Fabulous Bitch said...

I forgot to mention, I love that prayer. I grew up with it.

Hezabelle said...

The thing about style is that writing is boring without it. And if you have a strong enough style that someone might not like it - then I'd take that as a good thing. It means your writing is interesting.

Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

I think to a certain extent, one can change a little but it has to suit the writer or else you as a writer does not prevail.

bj said...

Hi...just stopping by from SITS..
Have a blessed and fun day.
xo bj

KaLynn said...

I like your style! Keep going!

Holly said...

Style is so subjective...Find your serenity and go with it.

Ruta M. said...

I think that person was very rude. To me style is the individuality shown by the writer, if you don't like someone's style then don't carry on reading. What was that person hoping to achieve with that comment? That you would ask them for advice on how to change your style? It strikes me that the comment was made simply to make you feel bad.

Kirsty said...

I suppose you have to look at it as a positive thing - when you're a famous author, you'll get people who just don't "get" your style, and it's good training to ignore them! like you say, problems can be fixed, but style SHOULDN'T be fixed. it's what makes you, you!

Heckety said...

I reckin I'm with Ruta M. above on the issue of style, its kind of basic. Would you walk up to a stranger and remark 'You dress really badly.' Well, I sure wouldn't, that'd be pure bad manners, AND none of my ##### business.
I followed you here from your link on Kathy's blog, and I really thank you for stopping at my place!

Everyday Kathy said...

Joining the bad manners camp regarding that style comment!

I'm in the camp of liking it, A LOT!

Kathy over at Everyday Bliss

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