Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The tower of writing

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)


Anonymous said...

OMFG! I got an amazingly crappy review on Amazon this week too!! I was so thrilled to see it. If it's a trend I can start a HUGE blog-troversey and get some new readers! Yay me. I suspected it was the work of some who I know happens to be pissed with me, but still - kinda cool. And now. Now it seem EVERYONE got a bad review this week which means I'm not the special one. Sigh. Damn. Damn drat double dog doo damn.

~ FerfeLaBat

(Blogger ate my blogger account - bastards)

Jen said...

I'm sorry you got a negative review. Reviews are based on a reader's knowledge and experiences, though; a reader who doesn't know much about a certain area of history can't judge a historical novel on those details. But there are those who think they know certain facts, and judge on false knowledge. The point is, a person's opinion is just that, opinion, and may be based on poor knowledge and information.

I, too, am subject to doubt demons, in many things I do. Nasty little critters, they are. There will be readers who love your work, those who don't, and those who think it's somewhere in-between. Remember that there are those who do like your work, and one less-successful book doesn't mean they'll all not do as well.

I wish Lisa Valdez the strength to fight those demons. Some words can be really hurtful, even if they're honest. I hope she doesn't give up.

On the Blogger thing...I logged in to the main page (, and it said it had improved its system or whatever, and I confirmed my account (signed in again or something), and it said everything was ok, but when I log in to these blogs, it tells me I'm using the wrong password. However, if I log in to the main page, and then log in on the blog comments page, it works. Inconvenient and annoying.

Anonymous said...

Jen. I've tried everything with Blogger. I did try the back way which used to work but I never upgraded to the google account thing and now my old account seems to be gone.

I haven't gotten enough reviews to get many bad ones and my undertanding is, people ignore the good reviews but LOVE the bad ones so that's a good thing for a writers' career. If it's really bad no one believes it and they buy the book just to see for themselves.

I really was pretty excited to see a bad review finaly. Even now I am plotting ways to make it work for me. ;-)

Kidding. Kinda.

I must have missed the Lisa Valdez drama. I loved her first book. Was it something she said? If so - umm can I copy her?

I have no time for doubt demons. Perhaps later I can have fun with them.

~ Ferfe

Jen said...

Ferfe, I don't know what's going on with Blogger. I had to sign in again with the crap, so I created a new blog, to see if that helps. I might post to it eventually, when I get things settled online and get moved into our new house and settled there offline, but it's at

I agree, the bad reviews are more interesting than the good ones. I have been known to pick up a book, just to see what's so bad about it. I picked up my first Bertrice Small because a woman told me, "She writes smut." (That's not a review, exactly, because it was in person, but it wasn't meant to be nice, and it got me to try Small.)