One of the most difficult parts about being a writer is believing in yourself. Sounds kind of silly, right? Clearly, I’ve made the decision that this is what I’m going to do, this is how I’m going to do it and I’ve already set the gears in motion. This is what I’m going to do, I’m going to give it my best shot and hopefully the whole thing works out in the end. The thing is, along the way, you sort of lose the support of everyone around you in the process and find yourself lost in a jungle of endless criticism.
It isn’t that your friends and family don’t believe in you or that they don’t think that you are good, it’s just that things have changed. There will always be some level of divergence when it comes to career paths and not everyone shares my level of insanity. I have a lot of talented friends who all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but not all share my insanity (or stability at home) to be able to venture out into the jungle without a safety net like I have. This means that we don’t have these encouraging conversations with each other anymore where we talk about what we want to do while analyzing our strengths and weaknesses.
This also means that nobody is telling me that I’m good at what I do anymore, nor am I really telling them that they are good at what they do, either. Like I said before, I’m lost in the jungle now and it’s far too late to turn around. I’ve been making a living as a writer (of a freelance sort) for a while now, which means there isn’t that encouragement to “get out there” and to “show the world what I’ve got.” I’ve been doing that for years now, so there really isn’t a need to give me that nudge anymore.
My work is out there and honestly people pay me for what I do now. I am paid for my expertise, my voice, my opinions and to get people talking. Of course, when writing online a lot of the feedback that I see is far from constructive and usually along the lines of “you disagree with me, kill yourself.” These people still click on my articles, they still read them, they still feel something from them and feel the need to leave a comment, send an angry tweet or even go as far as to find my email and send me shitty messages.
It’s a strange, unnerving feedback loop that happens where when I wasn’t actually doing I’d receive all of the praise and encouragement to get out there and do it, but then when I was doing it and are making a living off of it the only feedback that I’d get is from people that are upset by me and want me to end my life. Generally speaking, this means that I’m doing my job well, believe it or not. This is also why I’m making a push at writing fiction and transitioning away from my career as a blogger-slash-journalist, because I will still get some private praise from people that I respect, co-workers and peers, but the public feedback is always toxic, always angry. It’s easy to have thick skin as long as you love what you do, but if you don’t? Dear god.
Writers online are treated as sub humans that are there to be battered and mistreated because, well, anyone can do it, right? That is the general consensus; that anyone can be a writer, they just don’t have the time or energy to bother doing the job that I’m doing better than me. I had my share of trolly years on the internet for sure, but we’ve sort of reached a critical mass where everything is online and pretty much anything and everything can be said without much in the way of repercussions.
I’ve been asked by a lot of people over the years why I hate MMA now, why I am only critical and at times negative about the sport, the people involved with it and everything else. My long answer would be about it being a young man’s game, by that I’d just mean people newer to the sport, still passionate about it compared to me. That is opposed to someone like me who has been watching it for almost twenty years and writing about it for ten. My short answer is a lot more simple; the reason why I don’t care anymore is because of the community, the people and the toxicity. My heroes have retired to been beaten into obscurity and the people that were fans alongside me gave up on the sport and the community a long time ago.
I don’t love you anymore. That’s what I’m trying to say.
What I do love is writing and reading literature. A lot of the same criticisms and general insanity exist within this realm, but it’s easier to work around. I’m still told by people all of the time that they’ve always wanted to write a novel, but just couldn’t find the time. That’s of course ignoring the fact that I’ve been writing my whole life, studied literature my whole life, done tons of hours of writing workshops, been critiqued on every little thing, faced rejections, crazy highs and crappy lows as a writer to get to where I am. I’ve also had people run down my first novel, claim that they could do better, or try to “figure out” who it was about (seriously, your guess is probably wrong, it is fictional).
Writing is such a personal process that it is incredibly difficult to finally let that finished work out into the wild. It is, after all, a part of me. It is something that I crafted, spent time on, worried about, formulated and combed over manically until I felt it was ready for the world to see it. Just like anything else, though, as long as it is something that I’m proud of and happy with, there is no shame in presenting it to the world and letting them sink their teeth into it.
I’ve written online for both large and small audiences, I’ve played music live for both small and [modestly] large audiences, released an album into the world, released tons of articles both widely-read or completely unread and I’ve released one book into the world and am preparing for my second one. The thing is, even when people piss me off about writing fiction, I’m able to push it aside because writing fiction is still about the document that I store my book and myself.
In the coming weeks I’m going to be asking people to give this book a read for me, which is both one of the most exciting times as a writer and the most humbling. It can also be frustrating, but that’s another story for another day. There might be things that I feel compelled to add in after they read it, there might also be stuff that I subtract. I might also scrap entire sections and re-write them. This is the time when it’s all about putting my money where my mouth is and believing in myself and the work that I’ve created. This is me at my most vulnerable and alone, but I appreciate everyone who decides to come along for the ride with me and their feedback. You guys make it all that much easier.