Sitting here with less than a month before the official release of Awoken (oh my goodness how time flies!) I can’t help but remember those dark days when I nearly gave up on writing. If it hadn’t been for the utter compulsion to write I felt the first time I saw Riley fully-formed in my mind, and my own desire to do my beloved family and friends proud, I never would have found myself here today—a nearly published author of a completed book. No matter what happens, I did it! All the nights my poor family had to eat TV dinners and leftovers because mommy was working on her novel, or the times I would take my notebook to my sons’ games, trying not to feel like a terrible mother for stealing a few minute’s writing while they were on the bench—I did it for them! And yes, I also did to for myself—to remind myself that I am a writer, that no one can take that away from me. And I had almost lost that.
I doubt anyone would realize it now, and it is a chapter of my life I consider closed, but once upon a time when I was at home raising my young children, I was a bit of a “BNF” in various fandom communities. I would get dozens of comments thanking me for what I thought were silly little stories written during the kids’ nap times and when there wasn’t anything good on the TV. I realized then that my little writing hobby was so much more than that. My words were bringing people I’d never met happiness! Around 2007 I starting blogging in earnest on livejournal, sending out into the ether details about my happy but simple little life as well as the imaginings of my mind, and the feedback from my fans was a truly joyous experience. At night I would read the comments aloud to my husband in wonderment. We both found it a little bewildering, but for me it was a sign from God that I had a purpose in this world outside of my little homestead.
As I became more popular, though, the comments began to change. I mean, I was always happy to accept a comment or two helpfully pointing out a misspelled word here or there. But there’s nothing like “fame” to bring out the folks that just want to bring you down, and tear apart your soul’s work. People would keep “helpfully” pointing out that my characters were one dimensional, that my stories were just the same fan fiction over and over again, that there was nothing original about “X only with Y” stories (whatever THAT means!). And never mind the comments about how I should probably get a beta reader to help with my “clunky” grammar and “adverb abuse.” Adverb abuse! You know, those words that are so crucial to really bringing a scene or character to life? Unbelievable!
I went to school and got a B.A. in English from The University of Dayton! My style might not be as cookie cutter as others, and I may be no Hemingway (thank goodness for that) but I know my way around the English language, thanks!
But still the “constructive” criticism continued. If I want criticism, I take my work to my writers’ group. And besides, once I finally found a writers’ group that really understood me, THEY never have any complaints! My writers’ group now-a-days can’t wait for when I have new material to share, so obviously for some people I must be doing something really good! But that’s regardless, because once a book is out there, either read it or don’t, but don’t tell me how to use my own creative talents. That’s just common human gosh darn decency.
Harsh words, I know, but back then I didn’t think like that. Each critique and less-than-stellar comment was like a stab in the heart. Now I have the confidence to think that if you don’t like my writing, then maybe the problem is with you, not me—and if anything, that is what the back button is for. But back then, I wasn’t as confident or worldly.
I had fans, beautiful fans, who rushed to my defense, and as ever always begged for the next update. To them I am eternally grateful. But when there is poison like that in your comments, when you start receiving buckets full of it on your blog, the knowledge of just how much people enjoyed your stories isn’t enough to fight the feeling of helplessness and worthlessness that grows. I started to believe what these awful people were saying, that I was just a hack, even after I won “Western Ohio Writer’s Association Award for Best New Blogger 2011.”
And after a year of that kind of attention and mockery, I gave up. I hated the Internet, I hated myself, I hated everything I had ever written. And so I deleted it all. The livejournal, the fanfiction.net account, my facebook, EVERYTHING. I can’t even find my old writings online anymore. It is like a fire ripped through my internet home and destroyed it all.
All I kept were my old writing journals. I couldn’t bear to lose those. And thank goodness I didn’t, because everything changed in 2012…