Putting it Out There

One of the first links to this site came from The Publishing Spot. The title of the little blog post was “Grow a Thicker Skin”. The inclusion of HNTW was meant to add a bit of levity to the serious work writers face in overcoming fears of rejection and criticism.

There are only two options. You can either quit now or grow a thicker skin. When your ego feels too bruised, check out supportive, funny sites like How Not To Write. If they don’t cheer you up, nothing will…

I was reminded of this when I saw this tidbit on Jonathan Coulton’s website:

My hope is that the rise of amateur content and all these channels dedicated to circulating it is creating a race of super humans who have extra thick skin. At least it’s a fluid enough medium that you can find your people as easily as you can find the haters – you can see Cupcake’s community/fans coming to her defense in the YouTube comments, and hopefully she takes enough pleasure from that to offset bad stuff.

It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there. Believe me, I know, I spent nine years in a day job because I was afraid to do it.

So it drives me nuts to see people lobbing bullshit negativity into the crowd – if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. And if you don’t have a piece of yourself to contribute, keep quiet. The rest of us are working here.

Jonathan Coulton always wanted to be a musician, but like many people he fell into the trap of doing what something reasonable and responsible: he took a software job. I did the same thing, joining the online biz circa 1990, when all I wanted to do was write books.

I’ve always sung and played music, my family is filled with musical people. And I started writing songs in high school, so that’s been a longtime hobby of mine as well. I actually meant to become a famous musician when I first moved to New York after college, but just sort of forgot about it and got a software job instead. And then before I knew it, it had become a career. Around the time my daughter was born, I was feeling enough pull from the song writing activities I was doing, and enough push from general job boredom, that it ALMOST made sense to quit and pursue music full time. Luckily it’s worked out very well for me so far.

[From the Jonathan Coulton interview on extraview.]

In light of the last two rather depressing/angry posts, all this got me thinking about why I started HNTW in the first place. Like most of my little web ideas, it began as a joke, something along the lines of “You Suck at Photoshop” though more self-depreciating.

As I began to write those Big Huge Book Reviews, I took some solace in trying to kill off the “magnolias and moonlight” dreams about writing I’d held onto for years.

The approach worked for awhile, outing the überserious hooptedoodle while winking at the most ridiculous aspects of my artistic desires. But then, I began to make a rely serious effort to change my work and who I was, which inevitably took me on a self-destructive course. I kept saying my work was terrible, devaluing all the effort and learning that went into writing two novels and scores of short stories over fifteen plus years that I began to believe that “not writing” was all that I could do.

My private journaling became more intense (and repetitive). I started worry that I’d never actually get back to writing fiction again. I began to despair.

Predictably, I just quit caring altogether and told myself that I just wasn’t a writer.

I’d quit before but it never lasted more than a day or two. I’d shrug off the doom and gloom and get back to the wheel with renewed energy and confidence that I was on the right track if I just kept at it.

This time I felt different.

It was liberating to be free of the constant demands of writing. All the stories wanting to be told, characters and scene demanding life. All of it, silenced with a single decision to never write again.

I felt relieved and at ease. I felt like I couldn’t care less. I felt happy. This went on for weeks and weeks. I went on vacation and had the most relaxing break in years.

I won’t denigrate that time off. It was beautiful and I want to do it again, but I learned something while laying on the beach: you can’t run away from what you really are.

It started slowly. A trickling story idea came creeping in. Instead of feeling like I had to jump on it with full force, I simply let it play about in my mind for awhile. Then I let it drift off again.

When I returned from vacation, I knew that I was going to change my life. I wasn’t anxious about it or even impatient. I just knew it would happen.

It’s all so clear when there’s nothing else demanding your attention, when there is just one path to take.

Of course, life piles up around you quickly. You soon forget the grand and glorious dreams. You find yourself with less and less time to do what you need to do and the time that you do carve out is messy because there’s so much going on in your head. When you wake up six months later, you wonder what the hell you were thinking of…

I struggled with that in the last two posts and I will struggle with it again I’m sure. Hopefully though, I will find the courage to just put myself out there like Jonathan Coulton and countless others.

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