Anyone who writes professionally – paid or unpaid, author or blogger, blogger or reviewer – knows the journey is often an emotional rollercoaster as well as a creative and even financial one.
You’re up, you’re down; people love what you write, they hate what you write. Sales boom, then bust; subscribers flock to your site, then leave in droves.
For YA authors, especially, the journey can be even more frustrating because so many sets of eyes follow every piece you write. You finish a book, your crit group reads it and comments, your friends and family have their say, your agent (if you’re so lucky) reads it and comments, your publisher, then your editor, then reviewers – and more reviewers, and more reviewers.
One day I can read two five-star reviews, get a nice letter from my editor, watch my sales soar and walk around thinking I’m actually getting somewhere. The next, three two-star reviews pop up, each nastier than the next, I’ll get more edits on something I thought was already done and even they seem nasty, sales flat-line or plummet and, bam, just like that – back to Loserville.
As ePubbed authors, especially, every review counts because it’s challenging enough to get them in the first place. The good ones help exponentially; the bad ones hurt even worse.
Okay, okay, so I’m not telling you anything new.
But what I’m gaining with every personal, snitty, subjective, personal review or comment or tweet or share is more than a thick skin, it’s a kind of “creative armor.” A thick skin implies you’re always wearing it, always in control of your emotions, always positive and bulletproof.
But armor, I think, is more appropriate because you can take it on or off; you don’t wear it all the time. Every time I buck up and say, “I’m not going to let another review/comment/insult hurt me,” I enjoy a few good hours, maybe even a few good days, of seemingly bulletproof confidence. But sure enough something will happen to bring me back to squares and leave me full of self-doubt all over again.
So I try to put the armor back on, and stay confident longer this time. Ultimately, I suppose, the goal is to wear the armor almost always and avoid the slings and arrows of negativity that are so easy to hurl in our wired world.
But it would feel unnatural to me to stay confident all the time. For me, anyway, self-doubt and anxiety – while not always pleasant – are part of what it means to be a writer, especially a YA author. It helps me stay humble and grounded and, most of all, a little bit of an outsider.
Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE five-star reviews, good royalty checks and lots of Google alerts. But I often need those dings and slings and 1-star reviews to remind me why I write YA in the first place; to observe and share with and celebrate the insecurity and alienation and anxiety of being a teenager.
I guess my point is it’s important to stay on your toes and keep an open mind about who you are as a writer and where you are on that endless journey. Every time I think I’ve “made it” or “learned enough” or “gotten somewhere,” a review or comment or some type of feedback – good, bad or accurate – will remind me that there’s plenty more to learn.
It’s not fun, but it’s usually true and that’s all right by me. How about you?
Yours in YA,