Charging the Melancholy Dragon: The Down Bits in Writing Today

Bugs Bunny in CasablancaBeing a writer can be… depressing.

This is really not surprising and most that work in the arts feel this to a certain degree, because you are putting a piece of your soul out there for the world to see and judge.

And everyone judges.

Yet, for an author there is something about writing that makes it seem so, so much more personal.

It’s probably because a story begins in one’s mind and resides there for months to years, until that fateful moment when a writer finally hits “print” on their keyboard or “send” in that first e-mail. And when you consider that most authors are introverts to a certain degree to being with.… Well, it just spells depressing doom, doesn’t it?  Yes, this all seems completely explainable, so why does it affect all of us so much?

Because creativity is all illogical! It’s on a completely different side of the brain from logic! Creativity resides with emotion and once I am ready myself to show or talk about a book, I usually expect to be disappointed and a little down. This is not me being a glass-half empty kind of guy; it’s just the nature of being a writer, especially in today’s overly-congested market of authors peddling their wares.

Yes, we writers when we are young to the field all dream of accolades and awards and long lines of readers desiring autographs at the local bookstore, but that doesn’t always happen. The chance of that happening to any of us is the equivalent of winning the lottery. Maybe three lotteries… back to back… in one day… and then getting hit by lightning while picking up the winnings.

These are the two most important lessons that get me through the rough authoring patches…

Agents and Publishers

For the last few weeks, I haven’t been feeling it.

Yes, I’m still doing the blogging, but not as often as I was in previous months. A big part of the reason is if I have begun to reach out to agents about my new book Permanent Spring Showers. And jumping back into the query game brings me down. And when I am down or struggling, my writing suffers.

Now, there is a very good chance that some of the negative e-mails I have gotten so far have nothing to do with my book.  That is true, not a lie I am telling myself.  Some e-mails are just a standard reply e-mail from an agency not looking or not considering new writers at a given time.

Agents (and publishers) get overwhelmed by queries every day. I can’t imagine what they have to swim through each time they open their accounts.

One of the disturbing trends I have seen on a few agency websites is that many outright say they won’t reply unless they are interested. That makes me feel even more uncomfortable, because it seems to go against the understood promise we writers used to have with agents when we were playing this game via the mail with a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). And when I look at the list of agents I have contacted and not received a response from… well…  it can be almost more depressing; feeling like I didn’t even deserve the no.

So even though I know how overwhelmed agents and publishers are because of the market (a market where I sometimes feel there are more authors than readers), why does this game bring me so down?

Frankly, the answer is because I let it. And if you let those negative responses do it to you as well, you need to take a breath like me. That doesn’t mean putting the brakes on trying to find an agent or a big publisher (which some would argue). No, it just means remembering the reality of the situation… The problem is we writers aren’t always so good with the whole reality gig.

Lesson: Your book deserves a chance at the big time. Don’t let the NO’s hold you back from trying.

Readers and Reviewers

Good ReadsEver since I have joined it has become one of my addictions.

There is something thrilling about seeing your book being read by someone (maybe even reading their comments as they reach each milestone in it); seeing who is planning to read it; and then reading their responses.

The problem is that while a good review can thrill me for a few hours, a bad review can bring me down for days.

Currently, my novel A Jane Austen Daydream is sitting over the 4.20 mark. This means of the 70 or so readers on Good Reads who have decided to review it, a majority have given it five stars as compared to four or lower. That is pretty awesome. (It is my opinion all good books end up at the 4.0 mark anyway just thanks to the laws of averages.)

This novel has only one or two really bad reviews so far. (One in a different language!) And while I would love to reply to the negative responses (with the possible help of a translator) arguing where they have missed the mark in their reading; it wouldn’t be the best use of my time.

That is not to say a bad review isn’t worth it! I’ve written a few bad reviews in my time (even wrote a post on this site, here, about the steps in writing a good negative review).  It’s just one person’s opinion and sometimes that opinion  just happen to be mine.

See, the fact is at the end of the day, a lot of what I do in writing I do for myself. And when I allow the world outside my head in, I need to be prepared to take the negative with the positive. You can’t make everyone happy.

This all sounds good in theory, I know, but that is just the nature of writing in today’s world. You are going to see responses to your work. You will see it discussed (positively and negatively) on Twitter, Facebook, and on blogs. (And when it is not discussed, it can feel worse.) The days of just writing at home, and then simply sending the book out to your agent and waiting for the returns are done. Now you are part of the experience with the readers. And this can play with your mind if you let it.

Lesson: Write for yourself first then you will not be disappointed… and remember, remember a bad review is just one person’s opinion.

Tomorrow, I’ll get up and find a new agent to write to about my book.… And chances are I will do that again the next day and the day after that until I am lucky enough to have one say yes. But until that blessed moment I will keep up the good fight. That is because in the book of my life in my head I am the hero.

It’s funny how easy it is to fall into a story or a character but in my mind, yes, I am that hero author. Every post, every story, every moment of every day is a chapter in that “book.” And if this is to finish as a happy ending, I know the path it has to take.  It involves first more readers giving my books a chance, and then feeling security in where I am going to be tomorrow and the day after that in my writing career.

It’s a dream just as fantastical as a dragon in a story. But this is not a dragon that lives off of human flesh.

No, not this one. It is more terrifying.

This dragon lives off of the time I don’t write, the depression when I want to give it up, and the frustration when I want something more for my career than is possible at that time. It wants me to stop trying. And it roars in pleasure each time I abandon an idea. That lost, unwritten book is a fine dinner for it.

But I fight on… there may be scorch marks on my armor, but I will keep fighting it probably until my last breath. And if you decide to write a book, you are probably fighting it right alongside me.

A Jane Austen DaydreamIf you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had four novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen DaydreamMaximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous DareMy Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here.  Thanks for reading!

Need an editor? Dream of finishing that book but need some help? Learn about my editing services by visiting this page on my site. Or you can contact Rebecca T. Dickson and request to work with me by clicking the image below.

Rebecca T. Dickson, Editor

5 thoughts on “Charging the Melancholy Dragon: The Down Bits in Writing Today

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it!

      It really is fascinating how different this writing world is. I do the book reviews for WKAR and when I post the reviews I know that there is a strong chance that the author will see it thanks to social media. Writing today is not for the weak of heart, but sometimes it is good to take a breath and focus on what’s important.

      Thanks again!

  1. My first rejection set me back for a day, but now I make a game out of it, even setting goals for how many rejections I can receive by the end of the year. I know other artists deal with this to some degree but I think you’re right that writers have a bit more of themselves on the line, especially when we put our own emotions into a story. And then comes the day you receive a request for full, and suddenly, the sun shines again. It’s a crazy life, but the only one I’m suited for…and sounds the same for you. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Thoughts on Book Reviewing | The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

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