Sunday, October 14, 2012

Writers Are Strong, Not Neurotic

This week there was some talk about Amazon's new ranking for writers, and much of it was a variant of "Aren't writers neurotic enough already?"

It's like a variant of the old saw:

Just because you're neurotic doesn't mean there's nothing to obsess over.

But I'm tired of that stereotype that writers are fragile, emotional, scattered, or obsessed. We are not neurotic. We are strong and brave and resilient. 

You have to brave to write down your thoughts and share them with others. You have to be brave to ask for and accept criticism, and strong to make your writing better. You have to be strong and persistent to actually finish a novel or story, then polish it to the best of your ability.

You sure have to be brave to query a novel.

You have to be resilient to take rejections, and for many us, begin another novel after rejection and start the process again.

When you get an agent after one book or a dozen, you have to be strong to go on submission -- so close, but often still not close enough.

When your first or twentieth book is published, you have to face down industry reviews and reader reviews -- or maybe loud, shrugging, total indifference. You have people think you're not a real writer because you're self-published or with a small press or you write for a genre that doesn't really count to them. You have to go to book signings where you don't sell books and open royalty statements with "unearned royalties" stamped in red.

And if you're a published writer, you're ranked already -- you have to go out and promote your book even when your Amazon ranking shows you're the 821,678th most popular, and your Goodreads page has gifs of celebrities gagging at your work. And anyone can see it. Everyone.

So I don't buy that we're truly neurotic. Does an engineer have to face down one-star reviews? Does a salesperson have to go out and sell a product, with the number "821,678th most popular" stamped on his forehead?

No. But we do. We are not neurotic.

We are brave and strong and resilient in the face of setbacks, both public and private.

This week I was thrilled to get a new agent, Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, and I posted about it on my own blog, if you're interested in the whole story. It took a lot of resilience to get here after many manuscripts and many, many rejections. I have a book coming out with a small press, and I'm putting myself out there, beyond my little cave, and for me, that's brave.

If you are reading this, wherever you are on your writing journey, you are brave and strong and resilient.

What's something you did as a writer that was very hard to do, but you did anyway? 


Anonymous said...

Dang right! Thank you for this, it's so true and nice to be reminded :) And congrats on getting your agent! I just got mine last week! Popping over to your blog to read about it :)

Kell Andrews said...

Congrats to you too, Angela! It was a lucky week (for the lucky agents ;) ))

Valerie Cole said...

Congrats on signing with your agent, Kell! Kathleen is wonderful--much success to both of you!

And BRAVA FOR THIS POST! I despise the neurotic stigma that comes with being a writer. I hate it when people say it without knowing everything that goes into writing, querying, subbing, promoting. And I especially hate it when my first thought is, "I'm being neurotic" when my emotions start to crush in on me.

Good luck on your next step with your agent! Be smart, be strong, be brave.

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

A neurotic writer won't last long. Either you learn to get over your nerves, or you find something else to do. Or you go ballistic in public and everyone stands around and watches the meltdown. I agree, everything about writing and publishing requires nerves of steel. :D

A thousand congratulations on your new agent!

Eliza Tilton said...

Grats on the. Agent!

I went onto amazon and looked up a book I just read and was in the hundreds of thousands rank and I realized how stupid the ranking is. This book was so amazing that I sent an email to the author gushing about it and she wrote back.

If my book turns out to be number 600,000 but I've touched one reader that's all that matters.

Caryn Caldwell said...

I love this post! It's inspirational, and thinking of it this way *does* make me feel strong and brave (and ready to tackle revisions). Am off to share this link with many writer friends. :-)

Michelle L. Brown said...

Congrats on the agent!!! You know, not only are we brave, but we are passionate to the point of perfectionism, which may be where some of that label comes from. I think as brave as you must be the first time you put your work out there, it' takes a whole new level to send writing to an agent/editor/audience once you've had a bit of success. Living up to yourself is very scary. (And I'm just getting started! What if you win a major award or write a best-seller?)

Word Wrestler (Robyn) said...

Amen, sister!

You've got me all fired up and ready to fight the stereotype of the flighty, over-emotional artist.

There isn't a single stage in this process that's easy. Thanks for the reminder that we CAN do it, hard as it is. Because we ARE strong, or we would've quit a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. Thank you thank you thank you! Writing can be so isolating, and sometimes it does feel like I'm bashing my head against the wall. But your post revved me up. Did I say thank you? ;-)

Hall said...

Heck Yeah! And thank you for saying so...Cheers!

Ninja Girl said...

I think the hardest thing for me to do was put away my first MS and write the second. It felt like quitting in a sense, but I knew I wanted to keep going even if I'd exhausted pretty much all my querying outlets for that first MS. It paid off in MS #3, which was when I finally got my agent--who is brilliant and awesome and simply perfect for me and my book! Great post!!
Ninja Girl

Kristal Shaff said...

Awesome post, Kell. Love this! We are brave and resilient. We HAVE to be. :o)

justJoan said...

This is great! Congrats on your agent!

Michelle McLean said...

LOL I started writing a comment and ended up writing a whole post over on my blog about this :)

I agree that we are strong and brave and resilient. We have to be or we'd never succeed. But to be honest, I think we are a bit neurotic as well. I mean come on - I KNOW how crazy I get when I'm waiting to hear on queries and submissions and reviews and sales numbers. And so do all the other writers I know. We wear out our refresh buttons and send frantic emails to our writer buds who "talk us down off the ledge".

The difference is that while all that might cripple a normal person, a writer can take it in stride. It's part of the job. Yeah, there are parts of the business, a LOT of parts, that make us a little crazy (neurotic might be too strong a word, but a bit wacky...yeah, most writers I know are :) )

HOWEVER. We stick with it. We bravely send out more queries, more submissions, keep on writing no matter how many bad reviews we get. We don't let anything stop us.

So, yes. I absolutely agree that we are strong and brave and resilient. But...I don't think that means that we aren't a bit neurotic as well :)We just do it with style ;)