Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Writing and Pain

by Stephanie Black

Today, I’ll follow in the footsteps of a few other bloggers (“follow in the footsteps” is code for “be a copycat”) in discussing something experienced by all writers: pain. Julie Wright blogged about the pain associated with writing and how we experience physical and emotional pain in the same area of the brain. Krista Jensen wrote a thought-provoking follow-up blog. And, of course, last week Jeff blogged about Three (Bad) Emotions You’ll Experience as an Author. I’m amused by Jeff’s follow-up comment in Monday’s blog about how some people think being a writer is like hitting your thumb with a hammer over and over again—why do we do this to ourselves? As Daffy Duck once said, “I can’t stand pain. It hurts me.” Well said, Daffy. Nonetheless—we don’t quit. We love to write, and pain is part of the deal. Funny how life is like that.

Try for a moment to picture a writing life devoid of pain. No rejection . . . no cringe-inducing criticism on a manuscript . . . no bad reviews . . . huge royalty checks all the time . . . nothing but adulation and admiration from readers . . . Can anyone think of an author whose career is like that? Neither can I. If you’re an author reading this blog and have never experienced some form of writing-related pain, then send me your address and I will send you a unicorn, a magic wand, and a picture autographed by the Loch Ness Monster.

Even the hugest success-story authors have gotten slammed with rejections or bad reviews or, most often, all of the above. No one totally escapes pain. At some point on that writing journey, you’ll be walking through the dining room, barefoot, and your feet will be cold (it’s worse when they’re cold) and you’ll splinch your toes on the leg of a chair. Or you’ll be carrying a wide piece of furniture through a doorway and you’ll squash your hand between the furniture and the doorframe and scrape off a strip of skin. Or you’ll be running full-speed ahead and, whoa, who put that brick wall here?

There are many times in a writer’s life when you hold your breath, hoping not to get bonked on the head. The biggest breath-hold-a-thon comes when you submit a manuscript and wait to hear back, fearing the Big Ouch—a rejection. Releasing a new book—it’s a thrilling time, but also nerve-wracking as you wait for feedback from readers and reviewers. What will the public say about your book? You know your test readers liked it. You know your publisher liked it—liked it enough to invest money in it, after all. But by this point your publisher kind of seems like your mom—of course they liked it; they’re your publisher. Okay, I know that analogy doesn’t make sense. They didn’t publish your book because you’re their kid and they’ll tape your artwork to the fridge no matter what the picture looks like. They published your book because they thought it was a good investment for their company. But now that it’s been released, you’re desperate for outside validation—for readers to confirm that yep, this is a good one.

That’s been me for the last month—you’d start laughing like a fiend if you knew how many times I checked Goodreads before Cold as Ice even had any ratings (unless you just released a book, in which case you’ve probably checked Goodreads as many times as I have. Haven’t you? Admit it). I’m breathing easier now—the book has gotten enough good ratings and good reviews that I know I haven’t completely fallen on my face this time around. The earliest reviews are the scariest, because you don’t yet have a well of “I loved it!” to sustain you if someone says something negative. Once you’ve gotten some good feedback, it’s like the Tylenol Julie talked about—the negative comments will still hurt, but usually not as much, because you’ll know the negative reviewer’s opinion isn’t universal. Which is not to say that a particularly painful comment, or a review that hits you in a particular way at a particular time won’t still sting like crazy. Last year, after Methods of Madness had been out for many months, I got a review that stung more and stayed with me longer than any other negative review I’ve ever gotten. MofM was a Whitney finalist at the time and I knew plenty of people loved it, but that review still . . . ouch. I think nothing can completely eliminate the pain of having someone announce in what ways they think your book is lacking.

I loved the way Julie Wright wrapped up her blog and I shall quote her:
“It's interesting to think about how many things we don't do--that we REALLY, REALLY want to do, because it might hurt a little.

“It's interesting to think how much more NOT doing those things will ultimately hurt, than the little rejections along the way. The little rejections are temporary--like slivers. Not going after what you really really want?

Now that hurts.”

So we’ll carry on.


At 9/08/2010 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have a link to that worst ever review of MofM?

At 9/08/2010 5:35 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

I'd prefer not to post it, Anon. Not out of embarrassment, but because of the context of my blog today--I'd feel like I was pointing to the blogger and complaining he/she hurt my feelings. I'd rather not do that publicly :)

At 9/09/2010 12:50 AM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

I am honored to be quoted by you. :) Pain is part of the process, but it grows us into who we are. We'll deifnitely carry on :)

At 9/09/2010 8:50 AM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...

In my defense, I only checked Goodreads once yesterday to see if Backlash had any reviews yet. :) Still waiting... and I really hate waiting.

At 9/13/2010 11:41 AM, Blogger Jennie said...

Well said, Stephanie!

At 9/14/2010 9:22 PM, Blogger Krista said...

Thanks for the reference, Stephanie. Authors are one of the bravest groups of people I know!


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