Someone once told me that writer’s block doesn’t exist. And, to a large extent, I agree. If you sit in the chair long enough, words are going to run through your head. They will. But what if the words running through your head aren’t yours? What if they are the words of every bitchy, jealous, hateful person who has tried to pull you down, disguised as your voice?
Like many writers, I battle against the forces of negativity every single day. Most days, I’m able to swat them away like they are nothing more than an annoying gnat on a summer day. But then there are the darker times. When what I want is to climb into bed, throw poptarts at my kids when they ask what’s for dinner, and ignore the voices that tell me I’m no good, or that I’m foolish for thinking I could ever write something good enough to publish. And certainly not lucky enough to have the publishing lightning strike twice.
Where does this come from? Because, if I’m being honest, I mean completely honest, I have practiced my interview for when I’m on the Ellen Show. I have imagined what it would be like to see my story up on the marquee at the local movie theater. I have dreams that, most the time, don’t seem unattainable. I’m not saying it’s a slam dunk, but every writer starts out new. We all make the rookie mistakes. The difference is who can push through the negativity and disappointment to achieve the highest level of literary success they possibly can.
So, what I’m saying is, I rarely lack for confidence. But there are moments. Moments when I question if my house being in shambles because I’m in the middle of major revisions or heading off to the local coffee shop to get a chapter or two done in one sitting while my husband stays home with the kids is really worth it.
Yeah, it is totally worth it, but that doesn't mean it's easy. I don’t know if people who aren't in the industry understand how hard it is to be a writer, much less deal with the demands of being published. I’m not saying it’s the toughest job out there, not by a long shot, but being creative, taking your work with you every single place you go and wondering if you have done everything you can to make your book a success can sometimes wear a person out.
Okay, back to the negative thoughts. I’m struggling right now with the overwhelming negativity of my inner critic. I worry about the sophomore slump before my first book has even been magically transformed into an ARC. And based on conversations I've had with other writers, I’m not alone. So what do we do? What do we tell our crit partners when they've gotten bad news? How do we let them know it will get better and that yes, it’s okay to let your kids play an extra hour of video games so you can finish a really tricky scene? How do we lift each other up until they can get back to climbing the mountain of literary success on their own?
I think one thing we can do is give ourselves permission to relish in the little victories and let the big ones be singular events that don’t have to have an impact on future ones. What I mean by this is this: say your debut book doesn't fly off the shelf during your first week like you think it should. Does this mean you are bound to be a one-hit wonder what if? Hell no. It means you got a book published. That’s what it means. There is no reading in to it. Not making the best sellers list your first time out doesn't determine if you are a good writer. In fact, not getting a book published ever doesn't determine if you are a good writer. Remember those smaller milestones... like writing the first page... totally banana split worthy!
So BE FEARLESS when you face negativity. Just because someone gives you a bad review doesn’t mean you are any less of a writer or a human being. It just means they didn’t like your book. And that’s okay. Focus on being the hero to that kid who ponied up the courage to write you and tell you how much they loved your book. Or you vlog or whatever they loved. And tell the negativity to take a number. You can always go back to it. If you want to.