Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Care and Feeding of the Tortured Soul

At the core of many writers you'll find wounded people striving for relevancy. Maybe that applies to all art forms.  I've been lucky. Overall response to my writing has been in large part favorable, so this isn't so much about me. It's more about the constant and unending posts and comments I see online about writers needing to grow thick skin and needing to be able to handle rejection and cruel, biting reviews. "It goes with the territory," people say. This is true to an extent. 

Problem is, the "inability to handle bad reviews" comes from a place so deep that a hundred years of therapy wouldn't be enough to crack the code.

If you were to do some kind of study, I'm guessing you'd find that many artists are on a constant quest for approval.

"Wood warms you twice ...once when you cut it and again when you burn it."

The same could be said for writing. When the writing is going well, my mental state is in a good place. The writing warms me. At this point the story is something I embrace in secret, not sharing with anybody, holding it close to my heart, keeping it, and me, safe. Once the book is done and out in the world, the unvoiced dream and desire is for that story to feed my soul once more—with a warm response from readers.  So what I’m saying is that it's more than someone simply being unable to handle negative reviews. Because readers are the second part of this equation. Readers are the wood touched by the match.

Is this to say all writers are unstable and needy? No.  I’m saying if writing is therapy, then the second part, the reader part, is part of that therapy.  This is why we grieve when our books don't do well and receive bad reviews. Grieve.  Sometimes we grieve for days, sometimes weeks, sometimes years. Sometimes we get over that grief and go back to cutting and splitting wood—because we need to.  And sometimes we never go back.