6.08.2011

ON BEING TOO SCARED TO SHARE A WORD

Anonymous asked...
Do you ever get scared? Especially now that your ARCs are out and people can read your book, does it scare you to know that people are reading what you wrote? What's that like? I think that's the part of publishing that scares me the most -- the part where people you don't know actually read what you wrote. I don't know if I could ever handle that. How do you deal with it?

there's a shift in every stage of this journey. the shift from being an aspiring author, to even being an agented author, to then becoming an author with a book deal, and then finally crossing that threshold into the public where you stand, stark naked, waiting for people to tell you exactly what they think of your every imperfection as you huddle under the unflattering light of fluorescent bulbs. each stage is different, each unique in its own right. but that final stage? that last stage?

yeah, it can be pretty damn scary.

for so long we sit in silence behind a computer screen with nothing more than a blinking cursor and a shedding cat to keep us company. we pour our hearts out onto pages and wipe the tears from our eyes and maybe no one will ever know why we wrote what we did. maybe no one will ever truly understand what propelled us to write what we wrote in those hundreds of pages.

not everyone can know our stories, our backstories, our inspirations and aspirations. not everyone will look long enough to see the years of rejection, the pain and perseverance that went into writing and publishing a novel. reviewers will be honest, and in doing so, they might be cruel. they might try to draw parallels from our work to our waking life -- which makes sense, considering what an emotionally involved endeavor it is to write a book -- but often the conclusions they draw will be incorrect. there's nothing we can do to control that.

so we sit. and we wait. we eat our fingers and rock back and forth and wish we could dig up the floorboards and bury ourselves underneath. some days will be hard. some readers will hate the words that dared to stumble out from under our fingertips. maybe we'll be judged. maybe we'll be accused. maybe we'll be laughed at and ridiculed.

but i think that's okay.

because here's the thing about writing a book. here's the thing about writing with heart, with hurt, with emotion and raw, organic feeling: someone will find it. someone will find your words, your strength, your humor and your sensitivity and it will be an escape, a wonder, a welcome friend. for every critical review there will be a constructive one, for every constructive review there will be others that are praising. i believe that.

and it's hard. it's hard because maybe sometimes we'll want to hide. sometimes we'll wish we never cut ourselves open and threw our hearts on the table and maybe sometimes we'll want to quit. we'll be blamed for covers and copyeditors and things that are entirely outside of our control. but the trick is in remembering why we ever put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, eyes to the sky. we had words in our head that we needed to share. we had stories to tell that couldn't be confined by the limitations of our human body.

we needed to write.
and in doing so we will have reached out.

it's hard to be thrown into a world of scrutiny, a world wherein your rawest emotions are ripped out of your chest and are promptly evaluated by people who may or may not like what they see. of course it's hard. but it's part of the beauty. it's part of the struggle. because there's something so profound in realizing the utter subjectivity of this industry. this brilliance unique to the world of literature. that a book that makes one girl roll her eyes is the same that makes another sob herself to sleep.

you can never forget why you write. why you dare to dream and dream big.

it's scary sometimes, maybe a lot of the times, but you don't have to be afraid. because you and me, anon? you and me and everyone else -- we're all in this together. we're all going to face the same challenges, the same hurdles, the same stumbling blocks. but it will make us stronger. it will make us braver. maybe the negative reviews will push us to write better. maybe the positive reviews will make our days much brighter. maybe it'll all be worth it just to get an email from someone you've never met -- someone you might never meet -- who read and loved your book.

and when you feel scared, take a look around. remember that every single book you've ever seen in your entire life was written by someone just like you and me. and they were all scared, too. they worried. they wondered. they struggled with fear and self-doubt. they were criticized and ridiculed and ripped to pieces.

but without them, where would we be?

<3


15 comments:

Erin Bowman said...

Thank you for this. It is exactly how I feel as I continue my journey towards publication. Scary, yes. But totally worth it. And you're right -- we are all in this together. Everyone battles the Fear, and everyone comes out stronger because of it.

April said...

Great post, and something I haven't thought about toooo much, being completely unagented and unpublished. I've thought about my family reading what I've written, which is one of the reasons I don't write sex scenes exactly. I can't get past the idea of my mother, or even worse, mother-in-law, one day reading that. That isn't the only reason I avoid sex scenes (though two of my stories have rape scenes), but it is a pretty big one. I know it shouldn't be, but it is.

I agree with everything you have said though, and you've said it beautifully. :)

Liza said...

You are a stunning writer.

Caitlin R. O'Connell said...

Tahereh, stop, you're making me cry.

Actually no, never ever ever stop. <3

Ellen said...

Sooo true. And definitely something that every writer I've ever met deals with, no matter what stage they're at in their career.
Guess we are all insecure crazy people? :D

sally apokedak said...

yes, yes, yes. As trite as the old saying about pleasing all the people all the time is, the truth can't be denied.

We all have to write for our own audiences. And the first readers we should seek to please are our own selves. If we write books that delight us, there is a good chance they will delight others who are like-minded. And that should be enough.

We shouldn't look at the people who don't get our writing and don't share our vision and feel sad/angry/suicidal. We are not writing for people who don't share the vision. We are writing for the people who share the vision but don't know how to express it. The ones who read our words and sigh and say, "Yes! If I was a writer that's exactly what I would have written." And we are writing for those who share our vision and express it well but who are always delighted with reading the ways others express it.

You, Tahereh, are writing for me. Every time I read a blog post I say, "I wish I'd written that."

but the trick is in remembering why we ever put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, eyes to the sky.

I wish I'd written that. :)

BP said...

Haha, you're right! This is so absolutely great. It also helps to remember that you write because you love to write, nothing else, so if you can't make everyone happy (which you can't), it's water off a duck's back. It might also help to remember that some of the most critically hailed literary pieces were often also some of the most controversial, and whether you hide under the covers or not, your book is going to take you on a journey and you might as well keep your eyes wide open and enjoy the ride.

Marsha Sigman said...

The only person that it really scares me to have read my work is my mother.

Because I used a lot of curse words. She hates that.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

I agree with Liza: You ARE a stunning writer. I haven't read your book yet, but you already have experience in having your writing in the public eye. You've been writing this blog for some time and sharing yourself through your words.

Not everyone will love what you wrote. It doesn't matter. I am writing for the people who do love my writing. I am also writing for myself. The joy in in the journey. May your journey me magical.

Robin Mellom said...

Ah, this is so BRILLIANT.

Thank you!!
;-)

Bethany Robison said...

I'm much more intimidated by readers I know (as opposed to strangers reading my work). Same goes with public speaking - I'd rather talk to strangers than my loved ones, apparently :P.

That's part of why I loved Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT so much - repeatedly facing fear (successfully or not) makes us stronger and puts things in perspective.

christine said...

Love you blog. I am a newbie blogger and your latest follower. I wll be back.

capnflynn said...

Hi! I've been reading your blog for a while, and I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your sensible, upbeat, positive advice. So thanks for sharing! (And I'm really excited to read your book. :D)

Jennifer Jackson said...

We ARE in this together which is why I don't understand those who are petty of someone's success.
Someday, it will be your turn. Don't you want people happy for you?

Leslie Rose said...

Beautifully said.

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