When you announce to the world that you are hoping to become a writer, there a numerous dangers that begin to make themselves known – and no, I don’t mean carpal tunnel syndrome. Announcing you are, or want to be, a writer is akin to slicing open your finger and spilling blood in the water: inevitably you will attract sharks.
I’m not sure I understand this phenomenon completely. I do know I’ve seen it happen enough that it is, indeed, a true phenomenon. Typically it happens like this: someone announces, “Hey, guess what! I’m writing a book!” on some public forum such as MySpace or Facebook, or wherever. It could even be through email or to a few family and friends. A lot of folks will be very supportive and encouraging, but there are those few who – for some reason known only to them – feel it is their god-given right to tell you how you won’t succeed, what a disaster it will be, or how every other writer they’ve ever known has given up or committed suicide, or developed some insidious mental illness that was accompanied by boils and a plague of frogs. It has happened to me, it has happened to my friend Carol, and it has happened to my writing partner Jared, just to name a few.
I don’t get this. I honestly don’t understand why there are those who believe they need to jump on you with both feet and try to stomp you into oblivion, but they feel a compelling urge to do so – almost as strong as that which forces salmon to swim upstream for spawning. Some of these people will come right out at the very beginning and predict your doom. Others will subtly drop comments like, “That’s so brave of you. I hope you don’t have your hopes dashed.” Then there are a few who will seem supportive and encouraging at the beginning, then they’ll keep asking about your progress, and if you don’t move at the rate they think you should (i.e.: your freshly written manuscript is not in hard cover or paperback at their local Borders store within 3 months of when you finished writing it), will tell you that obviously you must not be very good or your book would have sold by now. The final group will say nothing immediately, but will begin to evaluate and criticize every element of your life – related or not to writing – and will point out every flaw, every error, every tiny discrepancy that they think they see.
And these folks will surprise you with who they are. It can truly suck sometimes.
The first time or two that this happened to Jared, he was stunned. I said something along the lines of, “Yeah, the editor and agent rejections are much easier to deal with.” Or something equally as comforting, I’m sure.
Over the years, my policies have changed as to how I deal with these people. It used to be that I defended myself and my writing to my last breath with these people. Now, I pretty much ignore them. If they get to me on a public place like Facebook or MySpace, I give them the benefit of the doubt the first time, but the second time, I delete them. With friends like that, who needs to submit to editors and collect rejections?
But it hurts sometimes. You want your friends – even your cyber friends – to be supportive. When that doesn’t happen, it’s a blow to the ego. So I’m more cautious now about posting what I’m working on and what my progress is. I’m more observant of those who comment to me and what they say. But more than anything, I’m more committed to simply following my dream and letting the sharks circle all they want. Sharks are attracted to noise and splashing. If I just float quietly along, doing what I enjoy, then I don’t attract their attention and I don’t have to fend them off. Less blood in the water is more blood I can use on the page.