05 August 2015

When Does Bitterness Leave?

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I noticed something trending on Twitter the other day that made my stomach turn: Pitch Wars. "UGH" was my immediate response. 

Honestly, writing-wise, doing Pitch Wars was the biggest mistake I ever made. There's a part of me that wants to rant and scream and tell everyone I possibly can not to do it. But I think the odds of someone else having my exact experience are actually very slim: first, having a controversial story, then having an a-hole mentor send unnecessarily cruel feedback on just your first chapter, and also being the kind of person who is prone to depression and anxiety and will let this sort of thing eat away at you. On the other hand, seeing as how there's roughly a 10% chance of getting picked if you enter, I also feel like it's just a giant waste of time. So in the best case scenario, you're still going to be disappointed. 

I wish I didn't let things get to me so much. It's not the first time I've been bullied. It definitely won't be the last time my writing will be critiqued (although I feel if my book was already published I would handle it in a completely different way). But at what point do you stop grinding your teeth when you hear something mentioned? When does that bitterness go away? When I think of something that happened in the past that still leaves me feeling bitter, the thought usually passes fairly quickly. You get over it eventually. Maybe just because Pitch Wars wasn't so long ago, it's still bugging me.

Or maybe it's just because it's kept me from writing. I hate the fact that it's almost been a year since I've really written anything. I've come up with a ton of ideas on how to edit my book, but I haven't actually done any of them. I hate when people tell me it's ok to take a break, because it's just been way too long. But every time I think about working on my book, I just wonder--what's the point? If everyone's going to hate this story and hate me for writing it, why should I bother? But I can't let it go because I've put so much effort into it and I think there's something there that people just aren't able to see yet.

So I guess I just need to try to make people see it. Nothing is ever going to happen if I don't start writing again. That's probably what I need to do to get over the experience. Nothing would be a bigger "f you" than being successful. If I don't write, then they win.


  1. You bother because you believe in your story, and yourself. Oh, yeah, there's still going to be so many days of self-doubt, but plug on through those. Feel it, and then keep going. So I say get your edits done, get your query letter and synopsis together and query it. The call for diverse books is so strong right now-- hit it while it's hot!! =)

  2. You have to let it go. It was one person's opinion. (And a really nasty person at that.) Believe in what you wrote.

  3. Diane is right. That person was unnecessarily cruel and you need to let it go. I've had those horrible reviews which drove me to claiming I never want to write again, but I do. Not for them but for myself. Do it for you.

  4. Letting the bitterness go would be the best thing, but if you can't do that yet, maybe use it to motivate you. Or, recognize that the bitterness is still hanging around and you wish it wasn't, but you're not going to let it dictate your actions.

  5. I think anytime you're brave enough to write something daring and controversial, somebody somewhere is going to hate it . . . but there's also going be to somebody else who is overjoyed that you went there. I was in the same boat for the last 2 years, letting a manuscript linger because I was sick of editing it and censoring it myself. It took the death of my father to help me see where my priorities should be at, but now I'm restoring the book I want to read . . . and we'll see where that goes.

  6. The bitterness goes away when you let it go. Forgiveness is truly the only way to live "lightly," meaning, being able to enjoy life without being bogged down by the past. I found pitch wars and amazing experience that lead to the start of my publishing career. It's funny how the exact same set up can pan out so differently for two people.

  7. Sigh. Crystal is right. The bitterness goes away when you let go. I know this, because I too have a bitter taste in my mouth from some not-so-successful contests, and it's HARD to let that go. I haven't entirely succeeded yet. I'm working on it...

  8. Who is this mentor who bullied you? I want to punch him!

    With that said, I agree with everyone who says to it's time to let it go. We all have to let go of our hurt feelings when it comes to a rejection or cruel critique. I also hate that you haven't written for almost a year. It's time to brush this experience off, shout a f-you to this person, and get back to writing.

  9. It sounds like this "mentor" was a total jackass. I am sorry you had such a bad experience. I know I would react the same way you have. It's very hard to let those things go but I think everyone is right, you have to do it and find a way to move on.

  10. I think I stopped writing for a little bit after last year's Query Kombat. One of the judges was a total jerk with their comments, and while I tried to ignore it, it kept sinking into my head, "But what if everyone will feel like that when they read it?"

    I had to tell myself that my story was worth more, and even though it's different and I feel like no one gets it, I have to believe that SOMEONE will, and there's an agent waiting for my story, so I have to fight for it.

  11. Okay, here's my Pitch Wars story. I got in last year as an alternate pick. Awesome mentor. But the agent round proved disastrous!! No takers. Not nearly as many agents showed up on our day as the first picks. I started to feel sorry for myself. I shook it off the next day and started writing a totally different book!! My mentor is now my friend and fellow beta reader:) I don't say all that to brag, but it really was hurtful to anticipate the agent round for two months...ugh!!! It still stings and makes me a tad angry:) but I have to move on or it will bury you. They did away with the alternate picks this year prob because of the poor turnout. Try something new!

  12. I know it's not easy, but sometimes you have to force it out of your mind and get back to writing. Some people don't know how to be helpful with comments and they are overly mean just because they can be. Don't let the haters stop you.

  13. You know? We don't write for everyone. Especially, we don't write for nasty jackasses. That person's opinion does not matter in the least. Maybe because he/she was a mentor it got to their head—because clearly the title made them superior. Maybe he/she needs a critique on how terrible they are as a mentor. Either way, it's not on you to give this person that much power. I get it. I get stuck myself because we're naturally more sensitive to negative thoughts. Writers, eh? But I think you have to decide that your passion for writing is more important than this person. And you finish that book and SHOW them you more than have what it takes. YOU GOT THIS!

  14. It's like falling off a horse. You have to get back on. (Of course, falling off a horse would hurt far more.)
    Wipe what that person said from your mind and begin anew!

  15. Please don't let your experience with one person like that stop you from writing. A very dear friend wrote a crime novel and a sister of a well known writer offered to send it to her brother for advice. (it was a first draft and you know what those are like). This was the first time anyone saw his work other than his wife. The critique was brutal and I know the author was trying to be helpful but my friend shoved the manuscript on the top shelf of a closet and never wrote another word because this published author left him feeling like he had no talent and no business writing. Nothing I could say, even sharing rejection letters and comments, could mend his self-esteem.
    Don't let that "mentor" have that same kind of power over you.

  16. Your bitterness can hurt you and disable your advances if you let it. But you can also wield it as a weapon and charge forth.

    I'm one of those firm believers in taking breaks but, if you think it's been too long, it has. All there is to do is figure out how to get back into it, which is easily said but hard to do.

    Writing can be a disheartening business. I've been slammed by editors who've had no right. There is a huge line between criticism and being a jerk. Unfortunately, just because someone is in a position over you, doesn't mean he/she got there because of diplomacy.

    Maybe ease back into writing by attempting shorter pieces. Or a collaboration with another writer. Could be just finding a few new understanding beta readers may spark your interest. Just don't give up. There are more people cheering for you than bringing you down, it's just harder to hear them over loudmouths.

    I believe in you. Jordan came to you to tell his story... tell it.

  17. I'm sorry you went through this - it's awful. But everyone is right, you've got to brush it off and keep going - I've definitely been down about my writing and quit for about a year - I was scared the itch to write would never come back, but it did and then I decided to self pub my novel and I don't regret it one bit - it's no great seller or anything but I actually learned a lot from going that route.

    I hope you can get back to writing soon!

  18. I say get more opinions. Find someone who clicks with your writing. They can probably give you good feedback to improve and boost your confidence along the way. Continual encouragement might inspire you to get down the words in your head.

    I know bitterness isn't something you can just turn off. I'm still plenty bitter about several things in life. But I've found overwhelming the bitterness with positive feedback makes it fade a bit.

  19. Find some people whom you trust and get some fresh feedback. Every time I get back from a critique group meeting, I'm fired up to write. It's hard to write when you're all by yourself. Good luck with the manuscript.

  20. I know bitterness like that. Some things still hurt, even though it's been years since they happened. But you shouldn't let it stop you from doing something you love. And I agree with the people saying to get more opinions. Not everyone will love our stories, but the best thing is not everyone will hate them either.

  21. That's really too bad that someone's rude and thoughtless critique stopped you from writing. Don't let them win! Whoever it was isn't worth another thought.

  22. Some people need to put others down in order to feel good about themselves or superior. Forget them.

    Here's what someone wrote about Brahms. "Brahms evidently lacks the the breadth of power of invention eminently necessary for the production of truly great symphonic works." A best selling author posted about his worst review. I paraphrase: "The glue in the binding of this book is better than the book itself."

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  24. There was a good 6 months where I didn't write anything, so you're not the first and you won't be the last person who gets looooong dry spells.

    I know some people on Twitter who are into pitch wars and doing it. I think it's pointless, but the n again, I'm a hardcore self pubber, so there's bias there.

  25. I'm going to give you a virtual hug.
    It sucks. Truly. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

    Happened to me. Ripped to shreds. Shattered my confidence. Broke me down.

    Now, I'm going to give you a virtual SMACK!

    SNAP OUT OF IT (A LA Cher in Moonstruck)

    DO NOT let 1 lousy person stop you from doing what you want to do.

    You don't answer to them.

    That was 1 person's opinion and not a very kind person by the sound of it.

    Do you write for you or for strangers?
    Do you write for enjoyment or to please others?
    Do you write cause you have to or because you need others to tell you if it's good or not?

    DO NOT let someone else stop you from writing the amazing stories that are inside of you.

    Embrace your gift.
    Write from your heart.
    Write what you love.


    Keep moving forward.

    I believe in you, Sarah.


    1. addendum...I think sometimes things hang on with us so long because we didn't get to have our say. Either we're too nice to say mean things, or the opportunity doesn't arise, but we don't get to expel all the hurt and bitterness and betrayal inside of us to the ones that caused it.
      Write it all down in a letter or a blog post or a journal entry. It doesn't have to go anywhere if you don't want it to, but say all the things, share all the feelings, get it all out of your system. Have a good cry or a good scream, whichever applies, and then move on.
      I hope it helps.

  26. I've only just heard of Pitch Wars but I can empathize with you. I hope that the words start to come and you can let the bitterness go, because you are right. The best karma is to be successful and if you stop, "they" win.

  27. I can totally relate to this post. Although I do agree with the other bloggers on here telling you to let it go and to move on, at the same time only YOU know when you're ready to move on. Yes, it's not healthy to hold onto bitterness, but things like that can really leave a scar. For example, my first job out of uni was working in an office - everything was fine for a few months, but then my manager really started laying into me. It was horrific and to this day, I wonder if maybe I should've spoken to someone higher up, because there's a part of me that feels as though she was borderline bullying me. It got to the point where I was terrified to check my emails because she could be so nasty in what she wrote, and I began to dread my weekends because I knew I'd have to go back to work on Monday. I hated it. In the end, I had to quit to save my mental health.

    Anyway....to cut a long story short, it's taken me two whole years to regain some of that confidence that I lost. Even now in a job that I love, I still hate getting emails. That's how much of a scar this woman left on me. It was literally only last week when I finally plucked up the courage to apply for another job and I had to list my previous jobs that I thought 'hang on, I don't suck as much as I thought I did. I've actually got loads of good experience for this job.' But my manager had beaten me down so much, I genuinely didn't feel like I was worth anything for all that time.

    At the end of the day only you can judge when you're ready to move forward. Like you said, if you don't write, then they win, and from what I've seen of your blog, I have no doubt that you're a great writer. So don't let them get to you! You've got this. You CAN do this - but equally, experiences like that can leave a scar, but when you're ready, the words will start flowing :).

    So, really, what I'm trying to say in this massive essay (sorry!) is that you'll write whenever you feel ready to write. Yes, you can start to let that anger and bitterness go, but don't force yourself to write if you can't. In my experience, that just slows me down even more ;). But never forget that we're all here for you, and we all believe in you and your writing :).

    Sorry if that was a huge ramble. I didn't mean it to be! I'll go now ;)

  28. Hi,
    in 2013, January to be exact, I had the same kind of experience. I screamed, kicked and then cried. I was hurting, but for some unexplainable reason, I did not take a break. Instead, I discovered a couple of writing books that help me get passed the bitterness and let it wash away as I began to read them. The first one was by Thaisa Frank & Dorothy Wall entitled Finding Your Writer's Voice, and the second one was by John Gardner entitled On Becoming A Novelist. These two books helped me to find my way back into my own stream of writing. To be honest, these two books were the beginning of me building and strengthening my writing muscles so that today I can validate myself by saying I am a writer and a good one at that.
    So do whatever it takes to get back to your writing. Don't let the anyone's opinion stop you from walking out your destiny.