Friday, March 23, 2012

Negative Talk

"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?

11 comments:

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I'm glad J is back at work on her book.

My mom has been a steady encouragement. And my agent. And thankfully, I have a small group of close friends that lift me up.

I do have those external and internal aspects of negativity I have to fight though. And ultimately it always comes down to (as the song says) the voice of truth.
~ Wendy

Nicole said...

One bestselling author (who even dared to read and endorse a self-published novel for me).

My husband stands behind me, but he doesn't get the publishing industry (CBA) - and, frankly, neither do I.

I can do as much damage to myself as anyone.

Jesus keeps me going.

Laura Marcella said...

I'm glad J got it together and was able to get back to work. Negative feelings are normal, but the important thing is to move through that and get back on the positive track. My husband and parents keep me going. Actually, I have a lot of supportive, encouraging people in my life. But my hubby and parents are definitely my biggest fans!

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Debbie also spoke of not affording conferences. What if someone won't allow room for that in the household budget? Any resources I use for writing I will have to repay from the proceeds and without resources I don't have much hope of proceeds.
How about children who steal the manuscript? I was so lucky she didn't get around to destroying it.
But I keep writing. The buzz from discovering the story beats any negative feedback anytime.

Megan Sayer said...

I'm glad, too, that J got back to work so quickly. Being derailed is horrible!

I tend to find that the main source of negativity is in my own head. I'm a hard task-master for myself, and when I spend too long in that place it can get really destructive, and I find that although I keep working, my motivation changes into "I need to prove myself", and that becomes a self-perpetuating destructive cycle. I was there for years.

Thankfully now I have an amazingly encouraging cheer-squad of girlfriends (and a husband). It took a lot of courage to share my writing with them in the first place (I still rarely tell new friends that I write) but it's been so worth having their involvement in the journey.

It comes back down to we're not meant to do it on our own. And the more we encourage each other the more we find ourselves encouraged. And I rejoice wildly when they are victorious, a) because I love them and b) because I know that the God who has opened impossible doors for them is MY God as well.

Nikole Hahn said...

My influence on the blog might reach 1700 people a month; I have a finished, unpublished novel, and am working on Book 2, while I work on getting an agent/publisher for it; I submit short stories to ezines, magazines, and anthologies, especially contests, and review books, but when I say I am a writer, they immediatly ask what book I've published. If I don't have one on a shelf in Barnes and Noble it seems I am not a writer. So yes...I resonate. What's praiseworthy however is how many people support me that offset the negativity. The negativity simply show me that these people don't get online enough nor do they know the writing market.

Kathleen Popa said...

It must have been hard for J to confront her husband, and to do so lovingly. I'm glad she did. Give her a hug for me, please.

Cherry Odelberg said...

The one person I can count on to encourage me is my 23 year old daughter. Most others who love and mean to encourage, season their questions with concern and covert reality checks. Family members are vastly relieved when they know I am doing something serious and practical. Writing for pay is relative, but I sometimes write for online news at $1.00 an article and a penny per view just to shore up my reputation.

I like Kathleen Popa's comment. I liked hearing about this couple because I am convinced "his" heart was in the right place and he did not realize he was discouraging (or subconsciously jealous or judgmental) and "she" had the courage, self confidence and communication skills to make him aware of her feelings - and they were able to stay in relationship - even better relationship it is to be hoped.

Sharon K. Souza said...

I enjoyed all your comments. I love hearing who you draw support from. I hope you draw it from this blog as well. We are all in this together. Thank you for being a part of Novel Matters.

Bonnie Grove said...

I have an unbelievably supportive husband. I'm certain he sets records in this area (let's face it, he's dealing with me!), and I turn to him on all occasions. I also have my Novel Matters cohorts that I trust for feedback, editing, and lots of love and support. I have a couple of other writer friends that allow me into their lives, too.

I've found that, while hubby's support is critical, I'm glad to have the support of other authors. It takes the pressure off Steve's shoulders, and it's a place to turn when I have issues he can't help with.

Sharon K. Souza said...

Bonnie, I'm blessed with such a husband, too. And I feel the same way as you about our Novel Matters group. You're all such a tremendous gift of God in my life.