It's happened again. I'm stuck. Was writing merrily along, skipping on that path toward my goal when I hit a roadblock. Usually when this happens, I detour. Figure out what's next. Not this week. This time, I made a huge mistake. I read a negative review of one of my books.
Reality is, readers have a perfect right to post their opinions. I'm all for it. But reality is, writers shouldn't read it. Not when they can't afford to let the doubt demons kick in.
Publishing is a business. I have two more books due this year. I have contracts, legally binding contracts. The historical, which is at 20,000 words, is due in four months. Usually it takes me 6 months to write an historical. Then the day job has its own stress... I'll be in Haiti in three weeks. Then Honduras. May will be a crappy writing month and one I can't afford to take off.
So reality is, I can't afford to get stalled by those nasty doubt demons. If you're a writer, you've probably experienced them at one time. Those doubts that scream out that your writing sucks, your books suck, you're the worst writer in the history of publishing, all the way back to the Gutenburg Press. (1490) It's just your own self-doubt kicking in. But wow, those self-doubts can weigh in. Usually I can shrug them off, like a cloak, and go on my merry way. But this time, pressured by time and a deadline, I'm stuck like a motorist on I-95 at the Golden Glades during rush hour.
I keep thinking of that campy movie, Village of the Damned or Children of the Damned or whatever Damned title it is...where Christopher Reeve is thinking of a brick wall and the alien children with the flax hair and the glowing orange eyes are trying to kick it down mentally, get into his head and he's straining and straining and gasping to keep up the wall...
That's me (Reeve) and the doubt demons (the alien kids). Sooner or later, they storm in, kick my imagination around and wreck the place. It takes a day or two to corral them, herd them back to their pen and kick their collective butts.
I can't afford that time. Not this year.
I recently was curious about Lisa Valdez' next book and went searching to see if it were coming out next month. Then I read her website. Wow. I truly feel for Ms. Valdez. The doubt demons didn't just kick down the brick wall, they stampeded over it, assisted by the flood of negative email/etc. she received.
On her website, she says she's retreating to her tower and not receiving email. Good for her. Should an author shut herself off from cyber space and readers like that? Yes, when she has a book due and she knows those doubt demons may storm the brick wall.
Does this mean readers shouldn't post negative reviews or say stuff on message boards and only be nice? Of course not. The great thing about the internet is more readers have a forum to express their opinions, trade information, and talk about the genre they love. But as writers, when we know we are suspectible to those doubt demons, we should avoid them. Email is different... unless you can have a friend or associate screen your email.
Many writers have thin skin. We're sensitive, which can go along with the territory of being creative. One author I did a booksigning with recently advised the audience to grow a thick skin, this was after she received a barrage of angry emails about a blog post she wrote in jest that they took seriously.
Growing a thick skin isn't easy. I've tried. Now my skin isn't as thin as an onion peel. Maybe it has the density of a kumquat. But it's still thin and I'm still sensitive. Fact is, the negative and the positive things people say about your work go with the territory. You have to learn to deal with it. I thought I did... I had, until this week.
I hope Ms. Valdez is able to recharge and produce more books out of her tower. And I hope I can once reinforce that brick wall and keep out the doubt demons. Kick their collective booties back to the recesses of my mind, and move on past this roadblock.
Maybe I need a mantra, a writer's chant like the soothing one Buddhists recite to prepare them for meditation. Hmmm.
I will not let the doubt demons rule.
I will move on and continue to write.
I am an energized, vibrant, creative writer who has a wonderful story to tell that deserves to be told.
I am in control of my creative process.
The Gators will once more kick butt in sports next year. (too much to ask for, let's just stick with the priorities)