do you have a cocoon of safety?

There have been some noises recently about writers blaming magazine editors for their failure to get published. Apparently, in case you didnt know this yet, and notice my tongue is firmly in cheek, there is a conspiracy that prevents new writers from getting published. On a more serious note, fellow ex-OWW-er Ann Leckie discussed coping mechanisms for writers who suffer lots of rejections and not much success. For obvious reasons, she suggested that lashing out at editors on a public site is probably a bad idea.

I’ve thought about these coping mechanisms, and one of them is the cocoon.

Let me explain.

Do you have a tight-knit group of writers who first joined XX workshop about the same time you did? Do you always/mostly read their work and give them supportive commentary? Do you as a group band together when someone, mostly someone who hasn’t been at the site/workshop for as long as you have, and ‘obviously’ doesn’t know the ‘rules’, gives any of your group an ‘unnecessarily’ harsh review? Do you all agree and chime in that this person is an idiot and excessively rude to boot, and none of you will ever return their reviews?

If you’ve answered yes to most of these questions, then you have a cocoon, a place where you can slip after your confidence has taken a beating, and where everyone will confirm that yes, you are a good writer, and the world out there is just full of idiots.

Cocoons are very useful. Often, these people will be your friends for much of your writing career. They give you safety, and a place to run where you can be sure that people are nice to you. That’s fine, but they’re a coping mechanism, and it’s good to realise what’s happening.

To make progress in your writing, there comes a time you must step outside the cocoon and face the harsh world. Keep the cocoon and take shelter when life is temporarily too hard, but don’t confuse your cocoon with the general readership, or with possible reactions from agents and publishers.


5 comments on “do you have a cocoon of safety?

  1. In a way, the blogosphere is that cocoon for a lot of writers. We’re all wanting to be nice, and encouraging. When people post their work, we say nice things about it, and don’t offer unasked for advice (mostly).

    I’d say don’t trust the blogosphere as evaluators of your writing skill. Let a critique group or the pros (editors and agents) do that for you.

    • The blogosphere, or your group of writing friends. If you become friends with someone, it’s very hard to poke holes in their work, unless that function remains the basis of your friendship.

      I think in order to improve, you need to put new feelers out all the time, attract new people who can offer new angles on your work.

  2. Excellent article.
    I get rejected all the time. Take it on the chin and send more stuff out.
    Polish your material. Listen to what the editors say when they tell you why your stuff was rejected.

    As the article says, cocoons are fine… up to a point.


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