"I can't really call myself a writer until I've sold something. This negative self-talk can be safe to hide behind. If we never state that we are writers no one will expect us to produce anything and we can avoid those awkward questions about when we are going to finish that book."
This portion of Debbie's post on Wednesday got me thinking about a couple -- we'll call them F & J -- my husband and I are friends with. While my husband Rick and F have a great deal in common, J and I, on the surface, are an unlikely pair. We had gone to church together for several years, but our social paths never crossed. It was my novel, Lying on Sunday, that caused us to connect, because of a reference, of all things, to the Beatles. She and I both loved/love the Beatles and both saw them in concert at the same venue. We spend a lot of time together as couples, but Rick and F often meet for lunch, and J and I do as well. She and I also love to take in a matinee of movies our husbands might not be interested in seeing.
F is an attorney, and like Rick, he's a history buff and a huge baseball fan. In fact, they've traveled to Southern California together to see their favorite teams: the Angels for F, and the Dodgers for Rick. Go, Blue!! F has been working on a memoir of his life for about 25 years, and while he loves to talk about it, the progress has been s-l-o-w.
J is an ovarian cancer survivor. She is building a speaking platform as an inspirational humorist. And believe me, she is funny. She too is writing a book about her experience, but it's very upbeat and meant to encourage a reader who's going through any kind of serious trial. Within a few months she had a strong first draft completed. She and F share a cluttered home office, sitting back to back as they work at their computers, and it truly is a case of the tortoise and the hare. Only this time, my money is on the bunny.
F & J have two very different projects going. I've been helping J with her format and advising her on how best to proceed so that she'll have her book available for her speaking engagements. In the late fall, she was gung-ho and moving forward. Her goal was to have the book finished and ready for self-publication after the first of the year . . . until F began to undermine her confidence. Now, ordinarily, F is positive, kind, a real gentleman to his family and friends. But he has been surprisingly critical of J's book. He doesn't "get" the humor -- which is aimed exclusively at women, and has brought me to uncontrolled laughter even after reading a particular excerpt two or three times! He doesn't "get" why you'd use bold subtitles at the start of a section. Those aren't in any of the books he reads, which are typically biographies of historical figures, and he's right, you won't find them there. "Besides," he says, "the subtitle gives everything away." Well, yes. And it makes a particular topic very easy to find for a reader who wants to revisit it, which is one of the reasons you use them. He doesn't "get" why she'd consider self-publication, which, in my opinion, is her only real option. In short, he doesn't "get" why her book doesn't look like his book.
J began to second guess everything she'd done, and stopped working on her project. The negative talk that Debbie spoke about had its affect on J. It wasn't self-talk, as Debbie described, but it was just as damaging. Fortunately, J came to her senses and sat her husband down for a heart-to-heart talk. She explained that her project was nothing like his, and therefore would have a completely different style than his. She made it clear that he either needed to encourage her or keep his opinion to himself. Now she's back at work. Unfortunately, because of the delay, she won't have the book to sell at an upcoming speaking engagement, but hopefully she will have it for the next.
There are a host of negative aspects of being a writer. We've talked about them a lot at Novel Matters. It's a solitary endeavor, filled with fear, doubt, discouragement. But when we're assailed with the negativity we have to pick ourselves up by the scruff and keep at it.
Does any of this resonate with you? When the negativity comes, whether from external or internal forces, how do you combat it? Who is the one person you can count on to encourage you?