Friday, January 6, 2012

My Words Are Not Me

I was playing around on twitter a bit this week, but still managed to get nearly everything I wanted done. It was a bit of a surprise since I've kept up for once with nearly all the blogs I've followed, chatted with people about their holidays as well as been super busy with my real life obligations. One of the things I saw this week was yet another author having a meltdown over a bad review. It doesn't matter who or why it was this time. All of these incidents have a certain sameness to them. I always worry about these authors. I used to think it was because I doubted they had any true friends. You know, the kind we all need; the ones who will tell you to knock it off when you are making an ass of yourself.

Then, while I was messing around making jokes and reading #engineersmut on twitter, I saw a random tweet.

Camryn's words made me think of the narcissistic way some people love their own creations: their writing, their painting, their kids even. It can never be anything more to them then an extension of themselves. This is why so many writers are struggling with the bad reviews. It's not the reviews themselves, which often seem unremarkable to me. It is that the author is taking the criticism of the flaws in their work as comments disparaging them as a person. It's crazy-making to do that and can't lead to anything except the sort of public bad behavior that has become all too common.

Not everyone will like my writing. And that is okay. It's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean they are stupid or wrong. But it doesn't mean that I am either. Art is so personal and intimate that every individual experiences it in a different way. Just because someone doesn't like what I write, doesn't mean that they dislike me. It doesn't mean that we wouldn't have a wonderful time talking and laughing over drinks or that they think I'm inferior somehow. And even if they do think that, it doesn't have to bother me.

Writing becomes a visible manifestation of your intellect, your heart and your soul, but it is, by it's very creation imperfect. It's not all of the writer, or even all of the writer's vision of the story. Courtesy of the ever lovely Lynn Raye Harris, I found this little book on writing by Ann Patchett. She writes at length about the process of creating a magnificent story in your head and failing to capture it properly as you wrestle it onto the page. I feel it is exactly like that for me. I know that what I've ended up with isn't as shining and beautiful as the story I've created in my mind. If I could ignore it and go on with life I would, but it plagues me until I bleed it out onto the page. While I'm writing it, I pour my energy into making it as good as I possibly can, but then, I try to let go.

Because the words on the page are not me.


  1. really love this Julia, does make you think doesn't it.

  2. Fab post Julia - and if I may say so beautifully written! Putting our work out there is a terrifying prospect but the truth is not everyone is going to love it and some people are going to hate it. How we learn to deal with bad, indifferent and scathing reviews is part of our writer's journey, but an important one. I for one am going to take a leaf out of the magnificent Sharon Kendrick's book and take each review with grace, humour and class. I hope!

  3. What an amazing and insightful post. I've got nothing to add, just want to say, well said. :o)

  4. Julia,
    Fabulous post. So well put. I have to wonder why people expend so much energy worrying and fighting back against a bad review. Put that time and effort into writing something new, take a breath, move on. Sure, it hurts, but only as long as you let it. It's the internet. It might always be out there, but there's so much noise--it's only as loud as the attention you bring to it.

  5. Yes, and yes, and yes again. And if I could just get lit students to understand that not even the narrator is the writer, I'd be a much happier person.

  6. Aphorisms nourish the mind, then teach. —@Aphoristically