Writers and authors can be some of the coolest people you’d ever want to meet.
They can also be insufferable. And most of those who are, either don’t know it or don’t care.
I believe that it’s a phase some go through. I believe this because I remember going through it, and probably remained in that phase longer than most writers. If it’s a phase, it can be overcome.
- Nagging everyone in one’s orbit to read one’s work.
- The above, while making clear that everyone without the will to refuse is expected to be Very Supportive (i.e. say nice things).
- Beginning to view everyone in one’s world in terms of promotion of one’s work: there are those who embrace The True Faith, and those who hesitate (or refuse: basest heresy!) to read/buy/share/review/promote it. The latter are bypassed as of little consequence.
- Posting protracted laments on writers’ groups about unsupportive friends/family, essentially asking to be given a bottle and caressed with encouragement.
- Approaching prospective editors with a defensive and defiant stance, practically daring them to do their jobs.
- Plunging into profound grief upon receipt of even constructive critical feedback.
- Ignoring said feedback as unsupportive.
All right. Does any of that describe you?
If you are still reading, you might like to escape this spiral of insufferability and sorrow. That which stems from life traumas is beyond my power to amend. For those I recommend a qualified therapist with the training to deconstruct trauma and help you to cope. It has helped me.
The other part is in my department. I believe in the power of affirmation and repetition to change our outlooks. It doesn’t happen overnight, but neither does a book. Neither does much of anything on which we look back with pride in achievement. Tell yourself:
- No one is obligated to read my work.
- Refusal to read my work is not a judgment on me, much less a personal rejection.
- If I seek feedback, I will presume it constructive until proven otherwise.
- I will not seek feedback from anyone without committing to giving it careful consideration.
- If I seek feedback in a critique group, I will remember my own obligations and give at least as much good as I receive.
- No matter how invested I am in my book, no one else can be expected or required to feel the same. Anyone who does so anyway gives me a great gift.
- An editor’s solemn duty is to tell me the honest truth, even if painful. I have no right to demand that s/he violate that trust to spare my feelings.
- Some people will be cruel to me. I will distinguish gratuitous cruelty from that which contains useful guidance, even if given with the bark on. From the latter I will take the good and leave the bad. I will leave the former’s authors to own their pathologies.
- I will not reflect the painful sides of my writing experience onto anyone who doesn’t deserve it.
- If the problem stems in part from my sensitivity over horrible life experiences which I reflect in my writing, critique of their presentation is not meant to invalidate my experiences.
Ten commandments? No, because I’m not commanding anyone, nor have I the power to do so. Ten guidelines for becoming the kind of writer that editors love and friends don’t avoid?
I can live with that.