Hesitation is cancerous for a writer. It may happen once, a deleted sentence, a rewritten paragraph, but if you write concerned about how others may perceive you, it will undoubtedly cheapen and warp your prose.
Because my readership is small, I have only received marginal criticism, and mostly it’s grammatical or the fragmented way I jump between subjects, and that’s cool, helpful even. But when someone complains about a topic that it is too controversial, I generally brush it off. In my opinion, it is okay for you to feel offended. Now, I’m not deliberately trying to attack a specific demographic – obviously, just look at what I’ve published, but I enjoy discussing taboo subjects.
Drugs, suicide, and patricide, have come up in my posts. True, these are derisive subjects, that’s the fucking point.
So I asked my friends if they experience symptoms of Writer’s Caner? Surprisingly, it seems to be a pervasive phenomenon. If you too suffer from this terrible illness, fear not! For I have three step program for recovery.
Step one. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Trolls, haters, assholes; though I think it is a relatively small percentage, you will have readers who just want to see you fail. Why? Don’t waste your energy trying to figure it out. These people can be identified through unimaginative slander that causes you to yawn when reading. Now, if you get a barbed, yet creative slam against you, perhaps participate in a little back-and forth for fun. You would be surprised how a little healthily banter can influence your writing. For most instances, these are the people to ignore. Brush them aside, and refrain from responding. Eventually they will tire and move on.
It is all right to offend. I am not advocating bigotry, but offending an individual should not make you pen-shy. A rational person will not try and quash free speech because it does not conform to their ideology. In fact, I would encourage you to touch on those subjects that make people uncomfortable. Go nuts! Write about what troubles you see plaguing society, or a routine injustice you feel is being committed. If someone who holds the opposite view as you cannot have a rational discussion, then it is them who have the issue.
People will disagree with you – isn’t that the point? Art should create conversation. If you wrote about what is already socially accepted, then who would read your work?
“Racism is bad.” If I titled a topic like that, how many of you would skip by it? Because… no shit racism is bad. But, if I titled it “Can Racial Bias be Advantageous?” It would be difficult to pass up. People are rarely on middle ground on this issue, and those choosing to read will likely discuss their opinions because it is such an emotionally charged subject.
You will find people who just do not like your writing. Everyone knows this going in, but when it becomes a problem is when writers’ receive feedback. I’ve made a post in the past advocating brutal criticism as the best sources for improvement, and I still feel that way. Your friends, family, are partial, for the most part. Your dreams are important to them and they will encourage even if they secretly know you destined to fail. This type of delusional reassurance is important, but it does nothing to improve your craft. When you discover people with the courage to say they did not like what you wrote, take the time to find out why, and, thank them afterwards.
Now that are expectations are in check, we can focus on future writing to get you out of the hesitative slump.
Step two. Jump.
What makes you uncomfortable? Gendered identify? Drugs? Radical religion? Same sex couples? Whatever it is, identify it and dig in. Because you’ve made yourself phobic, you must repeatedly expose yourself to your fear. But writing about it is the easier half of this step.
Next you have are going to publish it. After you’ve proofread, made corrections, you’ll inevitably reach a point where you standing at the cliff edge, ready to publish or hand over your work to a friend for consumption, and you will try talking yourself down. When this happens. Jump. Yes I’m telling you to jump off a cliff.
Once all the bad shit that you knew would happen, happens, you’ll realize it wasn’t that bad after all. Even a little exhilarating – sicko. Or it could be traumatizing and ruin your writing career.
The more leaps you make, the thicker the branches seem on the way down. Eventually, those ego bruising limbs turn to twigs and you quickly forget the welts they leave.
Step three. Take amateurism in stride.
Concerned you’re not good enough? Then It’s probably true, and that’s fine. You can improve on absolutely anything. I would argue that this is the enjoyable part of writing. Let’s just say you publish the first thing you ever wrote and it’s a mega hit. A wet dream for sure, but how long before you burn out from boredom I mean, where do you go from there?
Granted it’s a problem I would love to have.
If you are struggling to get published like I am, then consider, maybe, you’re not good enough yet. That may seem harsh, but I think it’s more true than most aspiring authors want to admit. My approach is to enjoy the process with the overall goal of being published. And if that doesn’t happen? Well I won’t know about it because I’ll be dead.
I imagine after you make it, the years spent toiling alone, constructing plots you thought no one would ever read, will be vindicated. Then you can tell aspiring authors about your failures, inspiring a new generation of storytellers.