Sunday, March 10, 2013

On Being Enough

I read Neil Gaiman's blog.  I have been told that blogs are passe.  Perhaps they are.  If so, I am very sorry.  Because I find out things I need to know when people are honest in their posts--things that have nothing to do directly with me, but which have EVERYTHING to do with what I need to know.

One of my goals was to be in an anthology with Neil Gaiman.  I approached him about it because, at that time, we had the same agent.  Also because, frankly, if you don't ask, the other person can't say yes.  (Yes, they can't say no either, and there's a real danger of that, but I try to think positively about these things.  You see, I believe that if you don't try, you have already failed.  Mainly because you've robbed yourself of any opportunity of success.)

I bungled the request badly.  I came off like a deranged fan.  It is one of the risks of being a (hopefully not deranged--or at least not in that way) fan, and exceptionally socially inept.  Fortunately for me a happy circumstance, totally unplanned, happened and I ENDED UP IN AN ANTHOLOGY WITH NEIL GAIMAN.  The blasted thing didn't sell for squat, but it's beautiful, and it's hardback, and I keep it to remind me that I write because I write and not everything is about the money.

ANYWAY, I digress (I do that a lot. Thank my editor that you don't have to suffer through more of it in the books).  I was reading Neil Gaiman's blog and I saw where he posted Amanda Palmer's TED speech.  It was wonderful.  She is as brilliant as he is (which is saying something people) and brave and daring and many, many other good things, and I am happy that they found each other even though I don't know either of them personally (and probably never will thanks to having seriously bungled my above request so as to sound deranged in a really-seriously-not-good way.)  But I digress again.

The speech made me think--which most good TED items do.  It also almost made me cry. Why?

Because it unmasked the big fear.  The one I suppose most artists have--but that I have in spades.  It has a name.  It is called:

                                             NOT     GOOD   ENOUGH

It is the belief that whatever I have to offer isn't worthy, and that I'm not worthy to offer it, that I'm being horribly presumptuous to think that I can do this, that people will want to pay their hard earned money to visit with my imaginary friends and hear what I/they have to say. The fear is always there.  It is bad enough that the only way I was able to launch my career was by partnering with someone who didn't have it.  I've grown, and learned, and am now standing on my own.  But I will never cease being grateful for Cathy's standing up and saying "It's good.  Why don't I send it out for you?"  And doing it.

I was on Amazon the other day, trying to figure out if the new book was selling.  I shouldn't have gone.  I know better.  Yes, the book is selling.  But they have reviews.  And while some of the reviews are good, there are always those people who write nasty, scathing comments, comments that rip and scar.

It was the luck of the draw that the negative reviews were on top.  The ranking showed that the book isn't all that hated.  But the worst review was right there under the ranking and it was brutal.

THE ELDRITCH CONSPIRACY is a book well into an established series.  It is a pivot point.  Things are changing in the character's life.  But it comes long enough after the previous book that things have happened in the interim.  Important things emotionally--things that are discussed in flashback, but that are not an immediate part of the current adventure.  The important things are not online in real time because they had nothing to do with the immediate adventure. Writing it this way was a risk. Because the character's love life is important.  But the fact is, that the series is not a romance series.  There is romance in it.  But it is not the focus of the series.

I received a seriously nasty e-mail because of it.  A nasty e-mail that didn't have its facts completely straight, but was heartfelt, and from a reader who seriously cared about the characters and was furious with how they'd been handled.  I lost a reader.  And I got to read eviscerating reviews.

And it hurt.

In my head I heard:  NOT  GOOD  ENOUGH.

I know that not everybody is going to love everything I do.  I want to be true to the characters, and the action.  But what I consider true to them is based on how I see them--and I do not see them the same way as other people do.  Cathy has been involved in writing the series from the beginning, but she sees the characters very differently than I.  There are characters I love that she just doesn't, and characters she loves that I don't.  We see how the characters interact differently.  If someone that close to the series can have a completely different viewpoint, a reader obviously can.

It reminds me of the scene in COLD DAYS by Jim Butcher where Mab is talking to Harry, describing how she see's his relationship with Molly.  He's faced with a perspective that is both uniquely Mab(ish) and utterly foreign to his own--BUT IS VALID FROM HER POINT OF VIEW.

I am not going to quit writing.  I love it.  It is not just what I do, it is who I am.  I also need the money.  And there are other readers who didn't write reviews, or who wrote the good ones.  I will write for them.  I am sorry that I lost the reader, and that I made her so very angry, but I am going to continue. And I will be forced to make choices--some of which will probably offend and anger other readers.  It is part of the risk you take when you put art out there.  I am not a fan of Hieronymus Bosch.  His stuff creeps me out.  It's well done, but I don't want it hanging on my wall, or above my desk (which just amused the heck out of an employer of mine, who knew I was a former art major and had a signed, limited edition print).  I can admit it is brilliant and still not want one close.

I love books.  I have many favorite authors.  But I am more likely to read Charlaine Harris or Jim Butcher than I am Nathaniel Hawthorne or any of the classics.  I think that Neil Gaiman is brilliant, but I know I will never be able to write the kind of literature he does.  My head doesn't go there.  Sometimes I'm a little jealous about that.  I don't know if I will ever be as popular as any of my favorite authors.  I would like to be, but I don't know if I have "it."  The lightning strike combination of work, talent, character, and popular taste/timing that launches you from the trenches out into the stratosphere.  I want to believe it's possible.  I WANT to.  But I can't know.  Only time will tell.  Time, and hard work, and sticking with it.  Which means I have to ignore the critics, and ignore the voice in my head that is so brutal and critical.

Which is why I read the blogs of people like Neil Gaiman, Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris.  Even if blogs are passe.  Because it encourages me, makes me believe that it may be possible.  And because, sometimes, I find a gem, like the Amanda Palmer interview--something that makes me think, and maybe makes me cry.


Andi said...

Don't let the few bad reviews get you down. I've been a fan of this series from the beginning, and loved this installment just as much as the prior ones.

Just know that many of your readers would be so disappointed if you discontinued this series or writing!

C. T. Adams said...

Thanks so much! I don't want to whine, but I really do get down on occasion. So kind words help.