FundsforWriters is twelve years old. Still, when someone unsubscribes and leaves a reason why, I hesitate to open the email and read the response. I breathe a sigh of relief when they say they are backing off email and paying more attention to writing, or that they are changing email addresses, or they’ve decided they aren’t destined to write (that one is sad). Why am I relieved? They aren’t telling me I’m unprofessional, worthless, amateur, or mundane. And yes . . . I’ve been called them all.
When you enter the public eye, somebody will feel bold enough to take a shot at you. Keep this in mind . . . they are usually behind you in efforts to become a talented and decent writer. How do I know that? Because the talented and decent writers remember what it’s like to climb up the ladder. The great majority of them, and I dare estimate ninety percent, have empathy for you in your efforts. And the harder you work at being a writer, the more empathy they have for you.
When my editor called my writing minimalist, I let it sting. Then I slept on it, studied the term, and came to the conclusion that it’s a good thing. It’s who I am and how I write. I didn’t crawl in a hole and cry. Instead, I embraced the good of it.Now I proclaim it. She was a mentor, guiding me to use my ability. That’s cool.
A writing friend of mine pens children’s stories. She’s not published yet, but she’s incredibly bright. It’s only a matter of time. She took a stack of my FundsforWriters postcards to distribute at the SCBWI conference in Charlotte, NC this past weekend. She ran into another writer who knew of FundsforWriters and C. Hope Clark. The writer loved my newsletters but found me “intimidating” online. My friend told her I “had a straight forward personality but was a very warm person.” For the rest of the day, I pondered the fact that a young writer’s first impression of me was intimidating. But admittedly I am straight forward, and to some, that’s awkward. To others, however, it’s refreshing to hear an un-sugar-coated message, and it’s become one of the attractive features of the FundsforWriters newsletters.
A week ago I attended my local writer’s group. We are tight-knit and speak openly. We pick at each other, kidding one guy’s passive voice, another one’s love of adverbs, and yet another’s embellished descriptions in the midst of action scenes. At dinner afterwards, we have wine and a dose of two of fun. One particular gentleman with a cutting wit joked that I scare people away when we discussed why a couple of people had attended and not returned. I have a tough hide most of the time, and he knows it. Still, sometimes . . . words tingle, sting, ache a little.
In this business, someone is going to ridicule you, your stories, your voice, your genre, or your protagonist. They do not fully understand you. Usually they’ve never met you. If people really meet you, maybe share a meal or drink, they soften. You become human . . . like them. Maybe they felt like a lesser person because you were advancing faster in your writing effort. Possibly they fear venturing forth, and saying something negative gives them some sense of comfort. But online especially, they point out things about you.
Don’t dwell on opinion. Take emotion out of it, study what they say, and then accept or discard it. Fear is a common emotion amongst writers. We have dreams, then we get a case of the what-ifs, and fear oozes in. When someone voices those what-ifs, saying things we already think about, fear takes hold. Fear we might be less talented than we thought, or fear we’re fooling ourselves trying to write.
Like critiques, you let the other person have his or her say. Take the rejection, ridicule or advice, let the cold edginess sit a while and warm up to room temperature, then decide whether you should retain the message or not.
You are the compass directing your writing journey. Don’t let storms steer you off course. Some gusty moments will teach you how to navigate better, but you have to choose what habits and talents to adopt from these challenges. But if you have a map, and a hunger to reach your destination, then you will. Regardless of the weather in your path. And yes . . . the weather will always change. Brace yourself, and be you.
Remember, the deadline for leaving a comment at the post Giveaway: How to Get Your Book Reviewed is this evening.