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By Bhalachandra Sahaj

Every writer starts as an amateur. I believe there has not been any writers whose writing was flawless from the very beginning; everybody had to start from zero. I remember myself as a 16 year old, when I was writing up to five short stories a day, just because I could. Any idea that came to my mind seemed brilliant, and I kept writing, and writing, and writing.

Once I thought, “Why not send my stories to a monthly magazine?” In my home city, there was a literary journal for young writers like me, and though back then I wasn’t competitive, some sort of unexpected vanity pushed me towards sending my best (as I thought of it) short story for a contest within that journal. To my surprise, a week later, I received a letter saying that my story was chosen for publication along with other winners. I was so excited! To me, it looked like a beginning of a writer’s career.

However, when I saw the story in the journal, I felt ruined. I could not recognize the text. There was my photo in the beginning, my name, and my brief bio—but the text looked completely alien to me. For some reason, the editor decided that she was a better specialist than me, so she corrected my writing according to her own vision. As a result, all the wordplay I was proud of, all the sophisticated nuances were lost. I felt desperate, and stopped writing for a rather long time. I convinced myself that I was just an amateur, and the journal’s editor was a skilled professional, who definitely knew better than me as to how a short story should look like.

But one day I thought, “What the hell? What made me believe I have no talent for writing?” My problem was that I got stuck on a thought that somebody knew how to write a story in my own way better than myself. But in fact, it was a false position; a position that lead me directly to a dependence on the opinion of readers and critics. Such an approach is a writer’s literary death, because an author must express his or her personal world through written words, not blindly follow fashions and the public’s fickle temper.

Believing in your own talent regardless of the opinion of critics—this is the quality that a true writer must possess. Forget about editors, don’t believe critics—write as you will, and get better through your personal experience and hard work, not due to useless instructions from aside.

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