This week, my friend Kate Maruyama coached me through yet another writing life crisis. So permit me to spill the borcht.
Now that my book is close to publication, now that I have a galley copy in my hand, now that I can see this beautiful thing right in front of me, I’m horrified. Because: what if my book is actually no good?
I mean, I’ve worked years on this fucker, but it is a crazy book. At best, it is not for everyone. Even in my most narcissistic moments, I know that many people won’t want to read a book about a neurotic failed writer who is impotent and shame-filled. It definitely has the humor I carry with me in my videos, but the book involves a guy who likes to be spanked, he obsesses about his dead father… it’s a book written by Yuvi about a guy named Yuvi who writes a book about a guy named Yuvi. In summary: it is an odd one.
But now that I’ve been mistakenly networking, now that I’m growing this audience for my videos and blog posts, what if people purchase the book and are horrified by it? You might be interested in my video explaining how I write on my iPhone but not interested when I tell you about a dude who cuts his ass due to his shame.
Now that I’ve scarred you with that image, let’s get back to Kate. She is a fabulous friend and writer and editor and she co-runs the website Annotation Nation (where writers look at fiction in terms of craft). Her debut novel, Harrowgate, is also soon-to-be-published (date TBD). Well she wisely e-talked me through this horror I was going through. She told me a lot of things, but the thing that knocked me on my ass (in the good kind of way) was this:
The truth is, you wrote a balls out 100 percent Yuvi piece of work. It is completely original. Because of that originality, it is incredibly entertaining and engaging, human and self-deprecating, it’s a character with his pants down and while we squirm to read it because it is so personal, it is a good squirm, because at our heart, we are all a fucking disaster area and you did that so well. And it is your book. You honored it and wrote it and rewrote it and, like our children, you have to send it out into the world, warts and all.
Whether the book sucks or not, here it is, my fucking guts on the table. For me, you, and anyone else to see and slander.
But it all feels less scary when I remember that this book is so… ME. No one can steal that even if they viciously point out its flaws. (I can already imagine the title of the scathing review: A Brilliant Criticism of a Shitty Novel in the Works.) I can’t say that I’m now suddenly immune to criticism. But I will try to keep reminding myself that I wrote a balls out Yuvi piece of work no matter what mistakes lie in it. I will love (or at least not loathe) the book for what it is and I will keep on writing…
So thank you, Kate.
And what about you? How do you handle the terror of exposing yourself to the world? (I mean, even a single blog post leaves a person exposed.) And how do you deal with the subsequent criticism? Or even just the fear of criticism? What’s your damn coping strategy (and how can I steal from it)?