Get Off Your High Horse

What the heck does it mean to  be on your high horse?

For me, being on your high horse means you’re indignant over a situation. How dare so and so expect this, say this to me or do that? I’m much better than that. Who do they think they are?  Sound familiar?

Well, maybe we don’t articulate our woes in quite that manner. Maybe we’re annoyed and hurt by something without feeling or even thinking about the reason why. We’re just annoyed, and we have a right to it. We’ve been done wrong. I mean, they write songs about this kind of thing, don’t they?

But you know what, being up there on our high horse doesn’t serve any real purpose now does it? I’ve been up there a time or two, and I can unequivocally say it never did me any good. It was a miserable, cold and lonely place to be. And I’m not all that crazy about heights if you want to know the truth.

Some years back an editor sent me some feedback on a story I’d written. I’d had problems with the story. I’ll admit that. I simply couldn’t find the voice I was going after. But I had worked my little heart out on it, and was basically being told the story wasn’t worth working on.  Ouch!  Talk about a slap in the face, an upper cut to the jaw.

When we hear something we don’t want to hear, it stings at first. Maybe more than we’re willing to admit. But then reality sets in and the hurt turns to anger. How dare this editor suggest that my story is crap! What do they know anyway? Everyone knows it comes down to personal likes and dislikes?

You climb up on your high horse and there you sit looking down at the world. For awhile you feel as though you have every right to be up there and you’re even enjoying the view. The winds blowing through your hair, feels kind of nice. You’re the injured party. You’ve been done wrong. Surely, this editor could have spared your feelings, broke it to you more gently by perhaps suggesting you take a nice long trip, all expenses paid, and leave that manuscript behind when you go.

The truth is, editors don’t say things to be mean and hurtful, and likely no matter what words they offered up would not have been the words you desperately felt you needed to hear at the time of rejection. Granted, I’ve received as few rejection in my day that had me feeling pretty darn good about my work, ones that offered some solid feedback for improvements and a whole lot of encouragement sprinkled on top, a bright red cherry too if I’m being honest.. One would like to think, that no matter what we’ve written, there is something worthwhile and salvageable. But sometimes, what we’ve written is only practice for that stunning masterpiece that is waiting for us down the road. We sometimes need to get real. If we’re serious about writing that is, and even more serious about being published. Anyone can write (at least in some fashion) but not everyone will be published. That is the reality we face, people.

So what does getting on your high horse really do for us except make us feel indignant and done wrong by, maybe even cause us to be frightened of heights?

Nothing.

It doesn’t make us feel good about our situation nor does it do anything to improve our writing. If anything it holds us back, fills us with miserable and self-defeating thoughts, that keeps us stalled in time until hopefully we get up the courage to climb back down again.

Have you ever been on your high horse over a comment an editor, or even a critique partner, made? What eventually made you get back down?

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14 Comments

  1. Hi Laura,

    Great topic! I don’t think I have a horse yet in this early stage of my writing, maybe more like a pony. :) I have been offended/hurt by comments, but gee … being so new what did I really know? I was proud of my efforts and primed for a fall.

    I have learned that if I want to be a writer, really truly want to be a writer, then I have to be willing to be teachable while understanding there is more than one way to see things. I have more to learn than I care to admit.
    To be honest, I’m finding it hard to pursue this goal, but I grab whatever time I can. Even if I just get to muck the stable once in awhile, that’s something, right? ;)

    Blessings on your day.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Lynn. A good thing for us to keep in mind if/when we’re ever put in the position of offering criticism, that we at least do it politely and in a helpful way. Hurting someone’s feelings does not help make them better writers, but could potentially discourage them from writing at all. That would be a shame.

      As far as learning goes, we all have things to learn no matter how many stories we might have published so don’t allow that to discourage you because we don’t have to know everything there is to know about writing to become published–thank goodness! Carving out whatever bit of time you can to write in your day is sometimes all we have. Hopefully, you won’t allow your dream to fall to the wayside. Then you would spend the rest of your days wondering, what if? and that’s a very sobering thought.

      Reply
  2. Laura, this is wonderful food for thought. Truly, there are times we want to get on that horse and ride into the sunset … or enjoy the emperical heights of the moment. Sooner or later, however, we must all dismount and plant our feet on solid ground. In our writing, we might come back to our senses, be thankful if someone at least had “something” to say and plant our butts in a chair and get back to work :)

    Reply
    • Oh there always comes that time for us to climb down off the horse. For some of us it may take longer than others. The fact that we hold our writing so near and dear to our hearts often times makes it challenging to accept criticism, especially when that criticism comes in a form that sounds cruel to us. You’re right, though, the best remedy for that is getting right back to work. :)

      Reply
  3. This was one of my Mom’s favourite things to say to me, “Get off your High Horse and wash the dishes, clean your room, do the ironing etc.” You see I would rather read than do those things. I didn’t really think I was too good to do housework, I just wanted to read. So if an editor or critique partner gives me advice or criticism I don’t agree with, I just think about it for awhile and sometimes I take heed and other times I don’t. Usually I just pick up a book and read.

    Reply
    • I think, if we give ourselves enough time to reflect, that we are the best person to decide it the critique of our work is accurate or not provided that we can distance ourselves from it enough to be objective. Sometimes that’s easier to do than other times.

      Reading is a good remedy for most of our ails, isn’t it? ;)

      Reply
  4. Great post. I’ve been on that horse before. It’s taught me a lot. When I’m wrong, the voice in my head keeps reminding me, but when I’m right the voice goes silent. Once, it took me six months to agree with that voice. lol

    I’m a little stubborn at times :-)

    Reply
    • There was probably a time when I might not have wanted to admit to being on that horse, but sometimes the truth just stares us in the face. Also, it’s easier admit to have been on that horse than being on it at the present moment for some reason.

      Hmmm Six months, you say? Some might call that stubborn but I’ve always preferred the word determined. :)

      Reply
  5. Pride goeth before a fall off the high horse. :)

    Reply
  6. Right the beginning of my reemergence as a writer, I was on my high horse. I think most writers are at the very beginning! But I’m still very thankful to the critiquer that pulled me down and helped me to see the reality of my situation. If we choose to listen and learn rather than pout and slouch, we stand to become better writers.

    Reply
    • The great thing about being on that horse is actually getting back down. Once we have our feet firmly planted on the ground things begin to make sense. We start to see the things that we couldn’t see before, and yes, I do believe it makes us better writers.

      Reply
  7. You are so right, Laura. Every single pity party I threw turned out to be a lonely boring place. I like being back in the world. Thank goodness my family has never fed my whines.

    Reply
  8. Yeah, those pity party are just plain pitiful. The funny thing is we’ve all thrown one at some point it seems. Ah well, they say misery loves company.

    Reply

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