If only you could create for arts sake.
While I was a child, I created art because it helped me get through a tough time, and I loved it. I honestly loved it. There was nothing better than hiding in my room after a long day and pouring my hopes, anguishes and dreams onto paper. I created worlds with a pen, and traveled to far off lands of my own making. Now, as an adult, I have responsibilities and can no longer afford (literally) to keep my work hidden.
At first I thought, why not? People tell me I’m talented, people love my work, I’m going to give it a go. Some people will love it. They’ll love it so much that they’ll go out of their way to tell you. But the reality is that not everyone will love your work, in fact, some people will hate it.
What I didn’t understand about breaking out of my solitary hovel was that I entered an industry where it’s people’s jobs to tear you down, or lift you up. By putting your work out there to sell, you’re asking people’s opinions, you’re asking for a review. Even if you don’t want to hear them, you’re asking the consumer: Do you like this enough to buy it?
If you want to be a writer, you need to understand this. It’s hard. Not just learning how to write well, but learning how to deal with constant criticism, and on the flip side, praise. I’m in no way saying that I struggle from too much praise, lol. I’m just saying I understand how in the spectrum of writerdom, and in fact every creative industry, it’s hard. I guess that’s why many famous writers were classic recluses. J.D Salinger, for example, famously became a recluse after the lime light was too much.
So, how do you strike the balance that keeps you sane, motivated and learning? For me, it’s a work in progress. But here are a few tips I try to keep in mind when having a downward swing in the self-worth category.
- Realise that you are among the few out there actually creating something. Making something from nothing, not tearing things down. How many others can say they do this?
- Go for a walk. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel positive, like morphine. It makes you feel better, helps you meditate on problems and forget them if necessary.
- Try not to read reviews until after you have finished a project. I find if I read stuff whilst creating, I get stuck in a slump. Sometimes for no reason at all.
- Get some like-minded friends. Network, join a club, join a writing group. These people are suffering and celebrating in the same way. Talking about it helps.
- At the end of the day, go with your gut. It’s you creating the art, after all. You need to stand by your initial goals and if nobody likes it, well, at least you did. Move on to something else next time and know that you did your best.
- Think about this quote by Charles R. Swindoll: “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”
- Write more. There’s always going to be haters and people who aren’t screaming your praise, so just keep writing. The more you put out there, the less you worry about that one that got away.
- Use a pen name. If you’re really scared, use a pen name. The only thing here is that at some point, if you want to promote yourself you will have to go public with the link between the real you and fake name.
- Learn from it. You’ve heard the phrase: Turn that frown upside down. Find something positive in the negative. Often there is a lesson, whether it’s feedback on your writing, marketing, or process. There should be something. I learned that I can’t read reviews while I’m in the middle of writing. Editing, sure, but writing the first draft? Nuh-uh.
- When all else fails, grab a tub of Black Forrest ice cream and binge watch Netflix until you fall asleep and wake up feeling better.
So, there you go. I hear you writers and specifically self-publishers. It’s a tough, tough gig. But I’m not settling for mediocre. I’ll get there one day, and hope you will too.