“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are incapable of forming such opinions." – Albert Einstein
This week I have faced a new challenge in the world of an author. Opinions.
It has been said that opinions are like assholes, everyone has one, and all of them stink. Just so you know, I can see the irony in writing a blog on opinions – blogs in themselves are generally the opinion of the writer. I get it. But indulge me if you will as I have reached an important conclusion that matters to anyone who is just getting started in the literary world.
On Sunday I got a disappointing review. I felt a bit down about it (as I am allowed to do). On Monday I was subjected to a spot of bullying. On Tuesday a lovely lady told me I have a unique voice, and a fearless writing style. Less than six hours later I was told the technical aspects of my writing suck and I should take a creative writing course. Across all of those days I had a large group of people who were immensely kind and made me smile through it all.
A writer cannot win.
This sort of thing doesn’t seem to improve as you gain notoriety either. Look at JK Rowling who recently earned the ire of the Native Americans who didn’t like the way they were included in her book (this is the same group of people who frequently complain about never being included in anything).
When you open your work and yourself up to public scrutiny, then you are actively inviting in everyone, including the batshit crazy people who get off on trolling and launching personal attacks. There is no comeback for them, they have no notoriety, they can sit behind a computer screen laughing manically while they pick their noses and scratch the fleas in their groin and it won’t affect their sales or future because they don’t have one.
The author, on the other hand, is expected to take such things with a smile. Like water off a ducks back. Never mind that you spent years working hard on your book and invested your own money into putting out the best possible product that you can. Those things don’t matter to anyone but you. Who cares that your work is like your own child, and when you see someone say nasty things about it, it hurts and you feel like rushing to defend it? No, you’re not allowed to do that.
I’m new to this whole literary world, and I’m learning as I go. I am making mistakes left and right – but guess what? I have a right to do that. I have a right to fuck up, and then learn from it and correct my behaviour in future. That is the mark of an adult. People who go out of their way to attack me and be mean and a bully - that is the mark of a child.
Being a writer is a constant learning process. You never quite reach mastery, someone will always be on hand to point out a flaw, a minor imperfection in your work or your approach to marketing it. I am a far better writer than I was ten years ago, and a far worse writer than I will be in ten years’ time. I am the best writer I can possibly be at this point in time and to all those who think that isn’t good enough – ok, point taken, stick with me and I’ll get there.
I have been lucky enough to have a bunch of really good reviews on my books, and only one or two bad ones. Guess which ones have taken up most of my time and energy? It sucks, but I’m learning to let it go. I will always be happy to take objective criticism from someone who wants to help me learn and grow, but I think I’ll always struggle to accept the real nasties who get a kick out of leaving bad reviews for the fun of it.
For now, I have shed my delicate outer layer that ripped and tore to shreds at the beginning of the week and exposed the thick leather skin beneath. I won’t say its unbreakable, for surely if you were to stab at it repeatedly with a knife, it would suffer somewhat, but really for a person to go at someone with that level of intensity is much more a reflection on them than it is damaging to me.
Everyone is of course entitled to an opinion. Please remember, that I am also entitled to ignore those opinions, or even to tell the opinionated to stick it right back up the stink pipe from whence it came.
Beware new authors, it’s a nasty world out there full of vindictive jealous people who want to hurt you for no good reason at all. Thankfully, there are a far larger number of decent, kind people who will fight on your side and happily hold your hand through the dark days. Focus your energy on those people and you can’t go far wrong.
And to think, all this comes from writing a book.