I never used to have doubts about my writing. Not real doubts. I knew I wasn’t writing big-L Literature, the kind that stuffy academics write theses about and debate the meaning of for centuries. I also know I am certainly more than able to write above the level of a lot of mainstream, popular (populist?) authors – better than most of what makes up bestseller lists, for sure. So many books that sell so many copies are so bad… I never used to have doubts about my writing.
Not until I began getting abusive / vitriolic / 1-star & 2-star / two-line “reviews” for my books more easily than I can make sales, I didn’t.
For every supportive, helpful reader who actually takes the time to write a blog post or post a review that’s actually composed of complete sentences and which displays a clear grasp of the English language, there seem to be two half-incoherent slams someplace else. Then there’s the occasional coherent review by someone who clearly read the book & just didn’t like it. Fine, alright, that’s easier to deal with – though it certainly contributes to my newfound doubts. These few low-star reviews are often the only ones on a particular site -the people who read/listened-to my books and didn’t hate them don’t seem to bother rating them & if there are people that love them, they show up less than haters- and it sometimes gives my books a “1-star average” right out of the gate.
So I’m beginning to have doubts. Is my writing good enough? What can I do to improve it? Should I be writing at all? Why can’t I seem to “engage” my audience / build a “community” / get much feedback at all? What about the idea that every single one of these “bad” reviews I’ve seen is by someone who clearly a) didn’t understand the book, or b) wanted it to be something I didn’t want it to be? Should I try to have a thicker skin? Should I subvert all my intentions, and perhaps even my passion for writing, to appeal to genre readers / mainstream audiences? Should I give up on writing what I want, the way I want, just so my books are easier to market? Easier to understand? Easier to blurb? Should I disingenuously start “participating” in book blogs & book communities I have no real interest in, in hopes that doing so will net me more readers & better reviews?
Maybe my writing really is bad. Maybe my narration (of the audio versions of my books) really is awful. Maybe my books aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on or the space they take up on your iPod or your eReader. I get a surprising percentage of returns of the kindle versions of my books – though I don’t really know what behaviour that reflects, on such a device. Maybe I should give up, pack it all in, turn everything off at Lightning Source, and just do art. Maybe I should get a ‘day job’. (Maybe I should slit my wrists.)
It’s not a good week / month / et cetera for me, right now. The depression, right now, is making basic functionality fairly difficult. I’m not sleeping right, except when I don’t want to be. I’m eating too much, except when I have no appetite for days. I even, finally, fell behind schedule on the podcast. The first 77 episodes were all on time, then episodes 78 & 79 were a day late, each. Today … today I definitely need to edit the next episode. Tomorrow’s episode. I don’t want to be behind, any more. I don’t want to be a terrible author. I don’t want to be hated and/or ignored. Right now, I feel that way. Right now, I feel like shit. Not engaged in Phoenix’s “Art community.” Not engaged in the “Podiobooks community,” not really. & I don’t really feel I know how to engage. I don’t know how to be part of a community. & when I think I’ve seen a glimpse of the how, it feels like … well, that’s not something I want to do. In the same way you probably don’t want to have hundreds of cockroaches crawling all over you & under your clothes & into your mouth, I get squeamish at the thought of forcing myself to do “community.” I get nauseous about the way professional marketers do their work. I recoil from the idea of creating what will sell instead of creating what I’m inspired & driven to create.
And this post, this isn’t cohesive, it doesn’t come to a point. I’d probably cut most of this out of a book. Actually, based on how the book I’m working on now is going, I’d probably throw the whole thing out & try to start again from scratch. I’m not blind to the fact that this post lacks focus, lacks a central idea, lacks a resolution. I’m also aware of the fact this this “blog” is really just a personal journal. This is my thoughts & feelings as I’m thinking them and as I’m feeling them. It’s not a marketing tool. I’m not trying to win keyword wars & earn money from ads. This is a journal. This is me.