Criticism. We’re subject to it 24/7. Unfortunately, more often than not, it’s negative rather than constructive. I’d like to think that after nearly fifteen years of ‘putting written stuff out there’ so to speak, that I’ve grown pretty resilient to unconstructive criticism and hugely receptive towards the other one. I’d also like to think that I’m pretty good at dishing out helpful criticism when it’s required. When I was studying for my BA in Creative Writing, delivering constructive criticism to our classmates was one of the most useful things that we were instructed to do on a regular basis. It honestly has the potential to pick people up and set them off again, rather than leave them slumped in the dust of their once precious creations.
The first book that I had published was called Anorexia: A Stranger in the Family, based on my own experiences with Anorexia Nervosa. (Well, that’s not strictly true. The first book I had published was when I was sixteen, and it was called Sticks and Stones, however the company who took me on board turned out to be charlatans…but that’s another story.)
I started to write Anorexia when I was fifteen and in a psychiatric unit for adolescents called the Newberry Centre in Middlesbrough, and by the time I was eighteen it was published. I had made my dream of becoming a published author come true, and I had got to that point through my own hard work and perseverance. ( I was at college five days a week and working weekends, yet I still found the time to be able to write a book and find a publisher for it…I didn’t have a social life, I should mention, but again, this should be the topic for a different post.)
However, during this time of business, I still wasn’t completely recovered. My life remained to be controlled by food, exercise and perfectionism. As a result, things suffered, such as my ability to concentrate for long periods of time, and, therefore, so did the overall quality of my writing.
When I read people’s reviews of my book today, I can shrug off negative comments, I agree with the majority of them anyway, though I do think that anyone with enough sense would have been able to tell that I clearly wasn’t well during the writing and publication of the book. Anyway, it was written mainly as a cathartic experience. It was only when I realised that my writing could help others that I decided to create a book. Maybe if my mind wasn’t consumed with thoughts of food and such my writing would have been better, more profound and less repetitive and simple.
I’m at a stage in my life now where, yes, some particularly nasty comments might sting for a few seconds, but I fall back onto the knowledge that my mind is healthy and my body is in good physical shape. As a result, writing well is my main priority, as I have always wanted it to be. Today, I can say that I am a good writer and truly believe it.
I used to feel as if I had to prove myself to these reviewers, but now I feel more relaxed. I hope that some of the people who have felt unsatisfied with my earlier work seek out my newer stuff, like my poetry, and discover how my ‘voice’ has developed since the time when I was little more than a ghost.
How I used to look…this is when I was in recovery.
How I look today…
If you are interested in finding out more about my experiences with anorexia, follow this link to a fantastic article by the Irish Independent. http://www.independent.ie/health/health-advice/anorexia-was-my-best-friend-and-it-nearly-tore-me-and-my-family-apart-73621.html