Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Yes, it’s hard before publication. And everyone accepts the grumbling about how difficult it is to write a query or synopsis. Everyone joins in moaning about the hardships of getting an agent (including me, see this post: Is the Query System Dying?). And we commiserate over a hundred and one other problems in our writing journeys.
Pre-publication complaints are common and widely accepted. That’s one of the blessings of being part of a writing community—we’re there to share each other’s burdens.
But . . . what about after publication? There are still hardships. Sometimes really tough ones. And yet I’ve found that it’s much more difficult to complain—at least publicly.
While I try to stay fairly positive on social networking sites and keep my negative comments to a minimum, there have been times when I’ve commented about something stressful or difficult. Of course most people are outwardly supportive. But I’ve also gotten responses that could be summed up like this: I’d love to be where you’re at, problems and all. So count yourself lucky and stop complaining.
I can’t help thinking if a few people hear my grumbling and feel that way, then perhaps many others do too. Maybe you’ve felt that way. Maybe you’ve wished you could say, “Come on lady, stop the griping and just be happy you’re published.”
In some ways, I liken the situation to a childless woman who longs for a baby. She’s had a difficult time conceiving, perhaps much more than she anticipated. When she’s with her friends who have babies, she hears them complain about how their newborns keep them up at night, how tired they are, and how they can’t lose their weight. Privately she wishes she could tell them to shut-up because she’d do anything to have their problems.
But the fact is, those moms with their babies are having a hard time too. Their problems are just as legitimate. Don’t they deserve the chance to vent once in a while?
So what’s a published author to do? Should they talk publicly about their problems? Or should they keep their frustrations to themselves? Do we have a double standard when we allow—even normalize—the pre-publication complaints but then disapprove of it post-publication?
Should everyone just stop complaining at the risk of offending someone else? Or are there positive ways that we can handle sharing our hardships? Here are just a few of my ideas:
1. Share our difficulties but look for ways to encourage others through our experiences. One of the things people tell me they like about my blog is that I’ve been transparent about the publication process. I’ve tried to share both the good and the bad so that writers everywhere can have a realistic picture of the journey and hopefully find encouragement and insights for themselves. In other words, we can use what we’re learning from our hardships to help others.
2. Make sure we’re positive and willing to empathize with others as much (or more) than we complain about our own circumstances. Every once in a while we need to stop and evaluate how we’re coming across. If our tweets and posts are mostly negative, then perhaps we need to look at ways we can change the tone.
3. Feel the freedom to speak up and be honest about our problems, but also know when to be silent. Social media allows us to put up facades, type smiley faces and use exclamation points, even on those horrible days when we’re wearing a permanent frown. I’m not advocating lying about our bad days and always having a Pollyanna attitude. But sometimes it’s okay to be professionally silent.
4. Share a little with many; share a lot with a few. In other words we should be wise in what we choose to share on our blogs and with the public. I share openly and honestly on my blog, but I don’t divulge everything. I only dump it all on a few closest friends.
Be honest, have you ever heard a published author complain and wished they’d stop? Do you think all writers, no matter where they’re at in their journeys, should be allowed to share openly? Or do you think there’s too much complaining in general?
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