I'm not afraid of anything.
Okay, I'm lying. I'm a terrible liar. My face gets all blotchy and I can't make eye contact, even though I know people know I'm lying when I blink and look away because in the police academy, they taught us that perps will look away and avoid eye contact when they're lying. Or, they'll blink. A lot. I do that. (Yes, I completed a police academy, albeit a reserve academy, because I'm just that bad ass...here's the part where I don't admit that I got my scrawny ass kicked on a regular basis and talked my then-husband into having a baby so I wouldn't have to become a real cop. Best. Decision. Ever.).
I'm afraid of lots of stuff. Lightning, thunder, spiders, and bridges top the list. Prose constructed minus the use of serial commas. I'm terrified of the dentist, of dying before my kids are old enough to call me for advice about Geritol vs. Centrum Advanced, and of driving off one of Vancouver's many bridges and plummeting into the icy depths (I run survival drills in my head where I successfully roll down all the windows and unbuckle everyone's seat belts before we slam into the wall of water, after which we will all swim to the surface and be rescued by the Coast Guard and/or a boat full of hot fisherman who have cookies for the kids, Irish cream for me).
Now I'm afraid of something new: reviews.
WHAT am I going to do if someone hates this book? Seriously? Husband keeps reminding me that it's definitely going to happen, that someone is going to say something terrible and mean and "she shouldn't quit her day job" because it's impossible to make all of the people happy all of the time and blabbity blah blah. That's why I don't sing in public. I don't want to get shot or have someone turn a fire hose on me because they think I've caught on fire and thus explains the discordant undulation and ear-piercing vibrato.
I come from a long line of oversensitive people. Man, my mom--she's the worst. If you look at her the wrong way, she bursts into tears. She cries when her clients yell at her (Mom's a kick-ass kitchen designer. If you live in Southern California and you're in need of a killer kitchen, she's an uber-designer. Just don't yell at her.) She cries when my 27-year-old sister and I are fighting. She cries at the grocery store if someone tells her a sad story and she only has $5 to give to them for their child's kidney transplant. (She might be a bit of a sucker, too, especially when we see that same fellow behind the 7-Eleven just moments later chugging a bottle of Colt 45.) So I come by this need to people please quite naturally. I want people to like my work. I want folks to feel that they haven't wasted their time, or eventually, their money. And since I'm only allowed to call my shrink twice a week AND I'm out of American Oreos, I need to keep my sensitivities in check.
This sounds stupid to even say out loud. Machiavelli would rip me a new one, tell me how it's never good to let the enemy see your weaknesses and certainly, don't come right out and admit them. (You're not my enemy, though, right?) I mean, duh, we all want other folks to like us and read our work and tell the world of our brilliance. We don't want 2-star reviews (and worse) and snarky comments popping up in the Amazon stream or on Twitter. It's like telling us our children are ugly (which, for the record, mine are not. The last one is sorta funny lookin', but he's wicked smart). The other day saw a fair bit of commentary on blogs and Twitter about how GoodReads has had to change their policy about writers commenting on reviews that may not be as magical as one would hope--but who are these writers who are actually taking the time to go in and refute a review? (It was GoodReads, wasn't it? Correct me if I'm wrong.) If you have time to go in and comment on someone else's comment/review, your time would be better spent learning how to make your writing suck less. YES, I know--this advice from someone who, at this juncture, has received one written review of the novel. (It was a good review, so I can't provide commentary with any weight as to the devastation of hearing I suck. It's going to hurt. Bad. Like a super-heated fork tipped with snake and spider venom, stabbed into an open, infected wound, over which is poured hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. And lemon juice.)
However, if the vomitus from Mean Reviewer Person is riddled with spelling errors and incomplete sentences and sounds like it was written by a 2-year-old or your ex's inbred cousin, then, again, I remind you what my mother often told me growing up: consider the source. Like the time that pesky Andy McCarthy cut in line again on the new slide and stuck his tongue out at me, and after school, I told my mom I was going to call him a fu*ker but instead decided to consider the source. (Maybe I didn't quite grasp the whole concept, but at least I got to say fu*ker at age 8 without the usual soapy snack.) It was very easy for me to criticize painters and paintings until I actually picked up a paint brush for the first time ever. Which I did, about two weeks ago. It was excruciating. See?
The same is true for us. Writing is hard. I could insert some overused quotes here that equate writing to blood draining from arteries, but you get the point. (And thanks, Lauren, at Back to Earth Designs, for being so patient with me while we giggled our way through Tofino's landscape.)
The POINT: It got me to thinking about the whole process of critiquing each other's work. There are a lot of writers who won't review other writers. Again, lots of debate in the blogosphere about why writers reviewing is a bad deal. It's the readers we want to connect with, right? I had someone ask me once, "Why do you care what other writers say about your writing?" Omigod, I SO CARE! But I also care about readers--and THAT is the circuitous way of me saying that I'm freaking out about those first reviews. I think an ulcer has reactivated in my gut. *squirt squirt* 'Scuse me. Gastric juices abound.
We're all people pleasers. That's why we're writers who are grabbing this publishing bull by the testes and saying, "Down, demon! You're mine!" And, unless you're one of those people who really doesn't give a rip about what others say, I'm guessing that I am not alone in this darkened room with my insecurity. There are lots of us here, aren't there? I can hear you breathing...oh, man, I think someone just farted...
This past week, I finally joined the Twittersphere and set to expanding my virtual connections. This exercise has reassured me in one thing: we're all in this together. The gals at DarkSide Publishing have certainly figured this out, as have the collaborators at Independent Author Network, Red Willow Digital Press, and numerous other sites springing up every day, the writers becoming partners in this grand adventure.
Don't believe everything the reviewers are saying (unless they're consistently saying you should take up dog walking as a profession). It would be like being a virginal 17-year-old and believing your boyfriend when he tells you he probably is infertile because he only has one...
Wait. I could be sued for defamation if I finish that sentence.
New friends are so much fun. I had no idea. If you haven't found me on Twitter yet, I'm @JennSommersby.
Time for chocolate!