Don’t tell me you haven’t wanted to do it too — just reach right through your monitor into cyberspace and slap someone for something he/she’s written. Well, I read a blog post a few days ago — and I so wished I could do just that. I envisioned this fellow sitting at his computer, flabbergasted to see my hand reaching out of his monitor and just slapping the tar out of him. (Slapping the tar out of someone — that’s a Southern thing, y’all.) I got an enormous feeling of satisfaction from the look of stunned surprise I imagined on his face.
Oh, I suppose you need backstory, don’t you?
It started with an email I received from the most gifted writer I’ve ever read. I am NOT exaggerating. Y’all, this girl can write. Oh, she’ll hem and haw and blush and want to crawl under a chair because I’ve dared say that OUT LOUD, but it’s true. I’ll call her WG here (Wonder Girl) so I won’t embarrass her further. So WG emails me the link to an article she’s read, and she says if this guy, who’s already a published author, is ready to give up, what is she even doing? How can she ever get her story out there and read?
WG has almost finished the first draft of an amazing novel. Her rough draft is, oh, maybe a gazillion times better than most authors’ tenth drafts. (I’ve been a bit concerned about electrocuting myself from drooling into my keyboard reading the section she emails me.) And this article has her doubting herself?
Oooooh, was I angry. Not at her, mind you. At the Bogeyman.
Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t the first time she’s doubted herself — and she’s not alone. We writers doubt ourselves every day. Pretty much every other moment. And it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been published according to Patricia Hermes, a writer I heard at a writers conference a couple of years ago. Patricia is the author of over 50 books, and she still thinks everything she writes is crap. She never thinks she has anything to say or that anyone will want to read what she writes. And she swears every writer—published or not—feels the same way.
Okay. So WG and I are in good company. And that pretty much means that discouragement comes naturally to writers. But if that’s the case, then we certainly don’t need any more of it, do we? We have a hard enough time admitting we’re writers. Every so often in the group I belong to, we stand up and say, “My name is ______, and I’m a writer.” Yeah, I know that sounds like we’re at one of those other meetings. Well, believe me, it’s that tough for some of us to say the words.
So this published writer lists “demotivators” in his article. How’s that for depressing? I’m constantly searching for guest speakers to inspire and motivate our writers and here, in an article about publishing today, this guy is handing out demotivators. Sigh.
Now he does make a couple of points I can’t argue with. Yes, in this new world of easy self- and e-publishing, the market is flooded with books. [I learned at a recent conference that 1.5 million new books were published last year.] And, yes, it seems that it’s getting harder and harder to get published traditionally. So, if you do manage to get a book out there, what are the odds anyone will read it?
Another point he makes — and this is the one that truly rattled WG — is that most of us writers feel writing is something we do, not only because we enjoy it, but because we believe it is a gift from God—and we should use it. I agree. How many times have I quoted Leo Buscaglia? … “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God.”
But then he goes on to say that Christian writers have been “bashed over the head about not ‘preaching’ in our fiction,” that we’re being told to only let the example of our characters’ lives and the lives of the authors themselves be the Gospel message. And if he writes fiction that takes [him] a year of hard work, goes largely unnoticed by a majority of the reading audience, does nothing to further the Gospel and has no life-long effect on the reader, then what am I doing? Probably just wasting my time. He asks, “What good is fiction? How does it spread the Gospel? How does it accomplish the work of Christ?” “He touts that “faith writing in fiction is practically worthless.”
Gee. Ever heard of Francine Rivers? What about The Chronicles of Narnia? The Screwtape Letters? How about Pilgrim’s Progress? Hinds’ Feet on High Places? The Left Behind series? Peretti’s This Present Darkness? (And I’d proudly and confidently add WG’s novel, and—hopefully—my own, to the list.)
In Write His Answer, Marlene Bagnull says, “In light of eternity, low pay and rejection slips mean nothing if even one life is touched.” And while it would be so gratifying to receive high pay and never again be faced with a rejection slip, Marlene is right. “Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” (Tom Stoppard) Nudging the world would be an incredible accomplishment. But, in truth, having even a small impact on one life would be an amazing triumph … and well worth all the hours bent over a keyboard.
But I guess the main reason I wanted to slap the Bogeyman was simply because we writers (or anyone for that matter) don’t need any more discouragement. We deal with enough self-doubt, misgivings, hardships, trials, setbacks, tribulations, (see your Thesaurus for additional words).
Besides, my favorite Writer (not WG this time, but THE Writer), says the “words of the godly encourage many … “ (Proverbs 10:21) and that we are to “encourage each other and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
So hug a writer … or anyone who might be a bit discouraged … and say something sweet today, okay? (And remember, “You are not a dork” is not an affirmation.)
And, honestly, I’ve never slapped anyone.
[Note: If you want to read the article that set me off, you’ll have to work for it. I’m not providing a link. Google “Faith writing in fiction is practically worthless” … posted by Keven Newsome. Mr. Newsome, I acknowledge that you are totally entitled to your opinions and to your rant. I just disagree. And I repeat, I’ve never slapped anyone … and you’re absolutely safe from me.)