The Right to Write: Friendly Reader (book club)


image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

Don’t be discouraged, but let’s go another round on this one….Remember the five steps of the writing process. Revise revise revise revise revise.

I stared at the email on my screen. I thought about the editor’s words. And then I smiled.

He had given me some suggestions to make my article better. But he did it in a respectful and caring way—ending with encouragement. I was impressed with the skill with which he gave me feedback. His words were not patronizing or condescending. They made me want to write better.

Isn’t that the point?

Julia Cameron would be pleased.

In this week’s readings of The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, she tells us we need just such a person to share our work with.

…The very vulnerability required to be open and creative is a vulnerability that puts our creativity at risk. For this reason, meticulous care must be taken to find “safe” readers and people who can be our “before, during, and after” friends to our work.”

But let’s face it. Such a person is hard to find. People have issues—especially writers. From jealousy to insecurity to our own ideas about how writing should be done, often feedback is more about the person giving it than the work itself. This is why, Cameron says, we must qualify our readers the way a bank qualifies an investor.

Why? Because bad criticism is dangerous.

…a writer’s block is often a very healthy self-protective response on the part of our inner creator to a dangerous threat…Gentleness, encouragement, safety—these are the watchwords to be put in place for criticism…I have seen more good writing destroyed by bad criticism than I have ever seen bad writing helped by good criticism…”

Criticism should foster growth–not discourage it.

Cameron says,

…When criticism was an art rather than an adversarial position, critics sought to shape and encourage by their comments. Deeply schooled in literary tradition, familiar with the tall trees of literary talents, they could often recognize promising new work the way a skilled forester might spot valuable seedling growth on the forest floor. Today’s critics are not trained to give or receive this kind of influence…”

 Thus, Cameron says, we must be choosy about who we share our work with. We must protect our creativity. We must choose readers who read with love.

I think I have found just the place for this here in this little online space. But I’ve also participated in local writing groups that have served this purpose.

How about you? Have you ever felt your writing was damaged by harsh criticism?

 Next week: Sound, I Would Love to Write, But…, and Driving. See you on the page!

Week 10: Feed the Horses
Week 9: Honesty’s Shy Younger Sister
Week 8: In Praise of Happiness
Week 7: Writing as Prayer
Week 6: The Letter
Week 5: I Go Alone
Week 4: Witness
Week 3: Invite the Muse to Tea
Week 2: Write from Love
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Introduction: InvitationAbove image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.


  1. says

    A million times yes to this! It is so hard…and so true. I keep telling my daughter, there was a time when people debated passionately about their thoughts, shared, criticised etc…but were better for it. The goal was not to tear down the person but to rub elbows and possibly influence and effect one another in some way. AT least that’s how I see it. Now it seems that people are seeking to come out as superior in their ability to reveal flaws in another…and to minimize, belittle, or destroy by their lack of a clearly defined reason for opening their mouth, scratching the pen, or tapping the keys. Anyway…I am grateful, God finds ways to send me the encouragement to keep pressing on, growing, and sharing along the way. We are all in process. Even the critics.


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