I didn’t actually choose to be a writer.
Who would, with malice aforethought, with a conscious decision, choose such a thing? People who are not authors look on those who are through a prism, I think. They imagine a Nora Roberts, or a J. K. Rowling, or a Jacqueline Susann, all stupendously successful women. And they think we’re all like that, people who have made it big and can bask in their own success by drinking champagne, eating caviar, and rolling in gobs of money they happened to ‘fall’ into.
Most of us are far from being that successful. Not all of us make a lot of money, or even enough money to live on, and not all of us spend even one moment basking. But all of us, I imagine, would agree on one thing.
Writing is damned hard, lonely work.
Sometimes, it’s tortuous. Not only the actual crafting of the story part, but the aftermath. Because, you see, there seems to be some sort of a cosmic law in play that says, if you dare to do this thing and craft these stories, dare to have them offered for sale, then you’re fair game for whoever wants to take a shot at you, impugn your character, and desecrate your works. All this they can do, by the way, without even reading said works.
These particular self-appointed experts have no real credentials, except a desire to tear down what others have so painstakingly built up. And if you, as an author, fall victim to these jackals and complain of such treatment, you’re told to get yourself a thick skin and deal with it. Because people taking shots at you is what you get for daring to do what you do. It is, they tell you, the price you have to pay.
My question today is, why? Why must there be a price to be paid—above the hard work of writing, the terrible nervous anticipation of submitting, the hard and sometimes near career-ending disappointment of rejection upon rejection...why does there have to be yet another price to be paid?
Those of us who are authors by natural inclination—who tried for a lot of years not to be but who really, in the end, could not escape our destiny, have several things in common. We’re creative, yes. But we’re also prone to moodiness and tend to have really low self-esteem when it comes to our work. To a certain degree we’re all neurotic, too. All of these flaws truly work against developing a really thick skin.
We couldn’t write the stories we do if we weren’t sensitive to moods and the frailties and the pathos around us, but that sensitivity is definitely a double-edged sword for us. We’re not the outgoing, A-list people you might think we are. Most of us are more content inside our humble caves, writing. We don’t want to party, we don’t want to schmooze, we don’t, except for those rare visits to conventions, want to engage in photo ops. We just want to write.
Sometimes, and against our better judgement, we let our eyes wander to those places where those who can’t write, can’t create, but can criticize congregate. Those places likely look tempting to some writers, because those who can’t do, hand out miserly treats in the form of praise to those who do. And it’s easy to get sucked in so that the next thing you know you’re pandering to these self-appointed experts, going along with the wholesale demonizing of others because you’re afraid if you don’t, if you don’t agree and become part of their Greek chorus, then you could be in the cross-hairs, next.
You would think after a few bad experiences of reaching out and getting slapped that we would no longer let our eyes wander to those evil places, but we do, just every once in a while, and pay the heavy price for that weakness—another wound to the soul.
You have to wonder how many wounds a soul can bear.
Usually the cure I find is deep within the work I so very much love. But sometimes, sometimes, the cure comes out of the blue, totally unexpected, and from someone you don’t even know.
So today, courtesy of a little feature called MER, I say, thank you, Dr. J., whoever you are. I thank you not only for your kind words about my books, but most importantly for reading them in the first place, and for getting it.