my only enemy

Is mediocrity.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and some recent shenanigans that other people’ve pulled have roused me to comment (the way I always do, secretive blog posts, written and posted late at night.)

This post on Dear Author is the one that pushed me over the edge. It links to a post talking about how some guy thinks that it’s okay to stalk his negative reviewers. (I don’t want to name names, because frankly, I’d rather he not stalk me, heh.) But go read it, it’s toecurling. I was sort of sputtering afterwards, and it’s part of a strange cultural shift this whole past year where authors have done Stupid Things To Themselves. The Dear Author link has some great back-links, if you’ve got time to click through.

I’ve been thinking about this — reviews and responses to reviews — in relation to gearing up for Moonshifted stuff, now that we’re a leetle over a month before it goes live. I’m excited and nervous and all those other authorly things. No one really tells you how having a book out there will make you feel. And not just feels, but Feels. It’s completely overwhelming, in both good and bad ways.

Part of the thing is that if you’re a long time pro, or have been slogging for any amount of time, you’ve spent a long time being critiqued, getting constructive feedback on your in-progress stories to use. When you’re a new author, it’s really hard not to take everything people say about your book incredibly personally, because your entire feedback career’s been spent in crit groups, and you’ve been trained to listen when people tell you things about your work. Getting reviewed is a phase shift from this — your work is done. It’s out there. It’s too late! Plus, reviews/reviewers have no obligation to be constructive — because they’re not directed at you, they’re for other readers. It is a confusing change though at first.

It’s also really hard to distance yourself from reviews on your book because…well, when your book is a 1st person POV who has the same job that you do, it just is. Bad reviews felt like a referendum on me personally, and for a little bit (I was having some other issues at the time as well) threw me into an existential crisis. I was all, “But how can I change to make them like me?” Annnnd, that’s where my loving husband said, “Hey, when’s the last time you saw your therapist?” and I was all, “Um, it’s been awhile,” and he gave me A Look.

What it boils down to is that we all want to be liked. I want people to like me, of course, and even more than that (because I know sometimes I’m a jerkface) I want them to be madly in love with my books. It’s hard not to read reviews — authors are like so many 14 year old moths to a facebook slam page’s hot flame. But I know now that I have to keep everything in context. It’s not about me really. It’s about the books. And it’s not my job, ever, to tell someone their review is wrong.

What I’ve also been thinking about in conjunction to all this is that the real “enemy”, if any author can be said to have such, is mediocrity.  And so I present to you the The Great Philouza, one of the awesomest sketches ever from Mr. Show. If you’re a creative-type, go watch it. Far more haunting to me than people saying they don’t like my stuff, would be the deafening silence from no one saying anything at all because it wasn’t worth engaging with. To not elicit any response because my books were so similar to other things out there, would be worse than a thousand one-stars.

Anyhow. I’m feeling pretty good in general right now, although I know it’s very easy to put on a brave face now that things are a ways out. At least I’ve had the wisdom to get a prescription for Ativan since Nightshifted’s release, for just in case! ;)

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