Now imagine me, standing just outside the room, wringing my hands and eating my fingernails, watching the lot of you stare expectantly up at the empty chair. Waiting for me.
Pressure unlike anything I’ve ever experienced has built to a breaking point inside me. Negative thoughts whirlwind through my head, clogging every creative orifice there is. Bravery, courage, passion – all that gets squished beneath the weighty pounds of F E A R.
(This is pretty much what I'm trying to say. You can just stop reading now.)
Deep, I know. Maybe too deep for a grand re-opening blog post, but whatever. Deal with it. Because it’s true. The things I write are an inherent part of me, closer to me than my children, my family, my friends. They are closer than close – they are me. The core of me. Twisted and shaped into something exciting that other people will (hopefully) want to read.
And it’s terrifying to share yourself with the world, especially when the world is so cruel. I’ve gotten some bad reviews. If you’ve been on Amazon or Goodreads, you know what I’m talking about. There are some doozies out there, let me tell you.
When I first began writing, I didn’t expect to feel such utter heartache from reading negative things about my books. In fact, I hardly even considered that people wouldn’t like what I wrote. It just wasn’t something I cared about.
I wrote because I loved it and because it allowed me to explore parts of myself that I’d yet to discover. I loved the magic of creating characters and concepts and entire worlds that were all my own. I didn’t care that my grammar wasn’t perfect or that my ideas were stale, my characters clichéd or my style too dry. None of that mattered to me in the beginning because I just plain loved writing.
Once the bad reviews started, I began to care about those things. I cared a lot. It stung when someone said something mean about the way I wrote. Hell, I’d thought the book was pretty good. After all, that’s why I wrote it. And other people (my agent, my publisher) thought it rocked too, that’s why they spent a lot of time and money putting it out there for everyone to buy. And then people bashed it.
Now I understand that when you spend money on a book and you put in the time to read it and you don’t like it, it can be frustrating. I’ve experienced that. We all have. But when you take that frustration out on the writer in the form of a totally unproductive hate-rant, that’s taking things too far in my opinion. You serve nobody but yourself when you choose to spit hate into a review. Online or in person, it’s just not cool.
Somewhere along the line, people have forgotten that authors are real people and that we all -- Yes, ALL – read those reviews from time to time. We all see the good stuff . . . and we see the bad stuff too. When you’re slinging mean, spiteful words about a book you read, you’re slinging that stuff at the author. Now, maybe you have no respect for said author. Maybe you hated the content of the book and it offended you. Maybe you think she has no skills and shouldn’t be a writer at all. Maybe. And that’s okay to think. You don’t have to say it to the world and you certainly don’t have to say it in such a cruel manner. Those words you read—the words the author wrote for you to read – those were her thoughts, her ideas and her soul transferred onto paper.
Somehow I think we forget this, and we think it’s ok to bash books, bash authors for writing them, or publishers for publishing them. We forget that there are people behind those words, people who trusted the world enough to let those words go and be read. When we throw hateful reviews out there, we betray that trust, and we destroy a little of what makes us human.
You see, I’ve been so afraid this past year or so. Afraid of the mean words, and the negative comments and the just plain horrible things that people can say. I’ve been so scared to put myself out there that I let my fear take away the one thing I’ve ever been truly passionate about. And isn’t that sad? That I let other peoples’ insecurities and low self-esteem steal my joy? I let their hate seep into my mind and it destroyed my creativity.
Other people’s words, literally destroyed mine.
Lately, I’ve been trying this thing where I’m brave. Where I stop being a victim and live the life I want. Part of that, I realized, is following the dream I set out on six years ago when I started writing. Six years ago I decided I wanted to be a published author. Well, I am now. After that, I decided I wanted to keep publishing books for the rest of my life.
Well, I haven’t done that, but my life isn’t over yet.
And I’m amending my ambitions to this: I don’t want to publish books for the rest of my life. I want to write for the rest of my life. It doesn’t matter worth a damn to me whether anyone ever reads the words I write. And it certainly doesn’t matter anymore whether people like them or not. People can read my books, or not read them. People can buy my books or not buy them. And people can like my books, or they can hate them and write terrible things about them. It really doesn’t matter to me anymore.
What does matter is that I keep writing. Every day. For the rest of my life.
See, without writing, I’m not alive. And what the hell is the point of life if you don’t live it?
So get ready, people. I’m about to walk into the room at long last. I hope I see you there.