Being a writer.

A couple of weeks ago, I reached that point in a writer’s career where the writer stops reading reviews and stops searching for her own name on the Internet. Not a moment too soon – it was killing me. Every time I did it, I’d get anxious. What if some stranger – some person I’d never met and whose impressions I couldn’t control or even affect – said something bad? The fear of that eventuality was making me feel sick, every time I opened a new review, no matter how favorable the review was or how many times I found favorable ones.

Then, it finally happened – I read an unfavorable review. (A real review by someone who didn’t care for my book, I mean. Not a “How dare this woman write such a thing! I have issues!!!” review.) And, after reading it, I thought, “Yeah, I guess I can see why that person didn’t like it. Oh, well. Not everyone’s gonna like it.” And then I stopped worrying. And then I stopped searching.

I’m very glad when people like my writing – especially when they identify with my characters and feel less alone in the world after reading about them. But I no longer need to read about people’s opinions of my work (or me) in great detail anymore. I’ll do my work, put my work out there, and do more work for as long as they ask me to. I’ll continue enjoying the work of others. And that’s enough for right now.

Are you an artist? Did you or will you reach that point in regards to critiques about your work?

Here’s a conversation I have often:

Other person: Hello. I am obligated to interview you, speak to you, or otherwise interact with you because of my job.

Me: Okay.

[We conduct the interaction. Then, afterwards….]

Other person: You know, I’m a writer, too.

Me: You are?

Other person: Yes. I write [poems or plays or a novel or librettos for operettas about mimes]. But, unlike most writers, my goal isn’t to get published.

Me: Oh, really?

Other person: That’s right. See, my goal is to create art, for myself. I don’t care if anyone ever reads it. I don’t need other people to read my work in order to feel fulfilled as an artist.

Me: Well, that’s good. Congratulations.

Other person: [Voice gets louder and faster.] That’s right. Because I write for my love of the craft. Not for money. I think so many writers these days are writing for the wrong reasons. Don’t you agree?

Me: Hmm.

Other person: Sure, I could submit my work to an agent and probably get a two-book deal… if I were needy like that. But I’m not! I’m confident. Therefore, I don’t need the quote-unquote approval of being published, like some people. Do you know what I mean?

Me: Okay.

[Half an hour later…]

Other person: … and then I said to my friend who was debasing himself by sending his sonnets to all the journals, “Why do you hate yourself? Why are you so insecure? You must not be secure about yourself as an artist.” And he said, “I just signed a three-book deal.” And I felt sorry for him. You know why? Because….

Me: Right. Yeah. No, I know. Um, listen, are you going to email me the interview, when it’s done, so I can make revisions? Or are you just –

Other person: … because I’m a real writer! I’m the only kind of legitimate writer there is!! Anyone who seeks to be published is a lap-dog of popular culture and the lowest common denominator! Anyone who kisses ass in order to get published is….

Me: Okay. I have to go now. My kids are waiting for me. [Turns to go.]

Other person: What? Oh, okay. Hey, well, I’ll email you, okay? Take my card. Oh, and… Will you let me know if your agent’s looking for anyone? Hmm? Oh, okay. All right. Good talking to you! :) Bye!!!

(I’ll regret typing this half an hour after I post it. Then I may or may not take it down. But, then again, what am I risking? Being alienated from people like that? I’m too nice most of the time. See, people are rude to me and I just stand there and smile, because I want to be “nice.” Then, I worry about even describing the rudeness, because I’m *nice.* My friends tell me all the time – quit being nice to rude people and psychos, Gwen. Hell, I tell that to other women. (Except I don’t call them Gwen. I call them by their own first names.) ‘Cause it’s mainly a woman thing, right? No, it isn’t. Now that I think about it, I know men who are “too nice,” too, who put up with crap from people. Especially from interviewers or “connections.” You know why? Because, sometimes, unhappy people seek to have power over happy people. Like, if the “other person” described above put his/her energy into trying to get published, instead of putting it into trying in vain to make writers feel bad about being published, then this other person would probably succeed. But for some people, it’s way easier to put the energy into being negative. And then, for other people, like me, it’s easiest to just be “nice.” I hate being around the negative, unhappy people. But fighting them on their own terms would expel too much energy. My Nice Muscles are well developed. My Trying-to-Make-People-Feel-Bad Muscles are lax. Work to your strengths, I guess. That’s what I try to do.)

While I’m ranting…

let me just say something I’ve been wanting to say for a long time, which is this:

Homophobic parents, please stop encouraging your gay children to closet themselves.

I don’t know what the deal is, lately – maybe it’s just because I live in a conservative state? – but there have been quite a few closeted gay people in my life lately. And they are the most miserable, effed-up people I’ve ever met.

Seriously as hell, there have been at least four miserable closeted gay people in my life in the past year. And this is how my friends and I all talk about them:

“Joe just needs to come out.”
“I know.”
“He would be so much happier.”
“I know.”
“It’s, like, so lame – the way he’s always lying to us about all the women he sleeps with and whatever. It’s so uncomfortable to listen to him and know that he’s lying right to our faces and thinking that we’re dumb enough to believe him.”
“Or thinking that he has to lie to us, because he assumes we’re homophobes.”
“Right. I don’t know what the big deal is. Like, are his parents going to disown him if he comes out?”
“I guess. He never talks to them, anyway. They live in Hoboken.”
“It makes me think that he lies about other stuff, too. It makes me not trust him.”
“Really? I just feel sorry for him. He’s young and handsome, and he could be happy dating guys, but he’s not. He’s throwing away his youth and he’s gonna end up like Larry Craig, married to some woman and tapping his foot at a cop in the bathroom.”
“Really? I just lose respect for him. He’s so chickenshit.”
“You think so? He makes me sick, because I’m gay, and it’s like he’s saying that it’s shameful that I’m gay, and that you all must secretly be ashamed of my gayness.”
“Really? I just don’t care. I just ignore him as much as possible, because I can’t deal with his closeted gayness.”

Then Joe walks in and says, “Oh, hi guys! Guess what! I just met a total blonde hottie with a nice ass and nice tits in the coffee shop today! And I’m going to screw her brains out! Ew, Bob, your shirt looks gay – watch out for the gays with that shirt on – they might gay you! Just kidding – your shirt’s fabulous, Bob! Let me feel the material…. Okay, well, I’m going upstairs to jerk off to this Victoria’s Secret catalog now! Because I’m straight! Toodles!”

And none of us say anything. And I imagine Joe’s parents, and I want to shake them until their teeth rattle. Just like they probably used to shake Joe.

If you have a son or daughter you suspect (know) is gay, and you’re directly or indirectly asking that child to pretend not to be gay because you’re worried about what others will think, then you are weak. You’re not a good parent.

That’s all.

I’m on the phone with AT&T Uverse now, and I have to save some ranty-ness for them.


Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in parenting, venting, writing on 01/22/2009 02:53 am

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.