Why I hate writing, Part 15: Experts, reviewers and other trolls

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

The novel got some good reviews, some mixed reviews, and some pretty nasty reviews. The New Yorker’s was literary water boarding: “…doesn’t even seem to have been written; instead it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper…what remains is a debris of sour jokes.” (The author) dwells on that particular review in his memoir: “I am tempted to drown in my own particular gloating laughter even as I set this down. What restrains me is the knowledge that the lashings still smart, even after so many years, and if I ever pretend to be a jolly good sport about them, as I am doing now, I am only pretending.”

Catch-22The above quote was taken from a forward written by Christopher Buckley (novelist and son of William F.) for the 50th anniversary edition of “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller.

To put this into context, consider that this debut novel is the 88th best selling book of all time and came in at number 74 on The Guardian’s 100 Greatest Novels of All Time.

Not that any such accolades matter much to a real, bonafide writer. Despite claims from people peddling self-affirming, Jack Handey-esque books that tell you you’re a writer simply because you write, I believe the universe has a way of weeding out those who are only attracted to the romanticized notion of being a writer. Anyone who tells you that being a writer is as easy as thinking/acting like one is trying to sell you something. Perhaps a book about being a writer. (Which ironically makes him a writer, but not you.)

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Which is not to say writers should not be encouraged. God knows they need all the encouragement we can give them, but if you consider yourself a writer and spend more time searching for validation than actively involved in the craft of writing, maybe you’re not cut out for this. On the other hand, if you live in fear that the world will soon discover the fraud you know yourself to be, you may just make a life for yourself.

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

–Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

If it seems as if I’m attempting to discourage you from writing, I’m not. There are stories that need to be told in unique voices the world cries out for. But if you’re new to this you need to know that it’s not for the faint of heart.

Prepare to be lonely, discouraged, disheartened, ridiculed and rejected. Go forward with the knowledge that people with infinitely less talent and skill will be more successful than you, that the old adage “Life is Not Fair” is painfully played out daily in the world of publishing.

Equipped with this knowledge, do it anyway.

And if you beat the odds and make it, don’t rest of your laurels. Do it again.


Editorial Note: I am not suggesting that writers should not read books about writing. There are some great books (and blogs) chock full of information and instruction on all aspects of the craft–from plot and structure to editing to building successful platforms. But you probably already knew that…

Just for grins, I went back and read the first of this series: Why I hate writing, written way back in July, 2010. You’d think I would have matured since then. But really? Not so much.

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