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‘Your work is unfit for publication.’

About two years ago, I removed myself from a very difficult ‘collaborative’ effort with some other authors. The statement above came from someone in the group and I’ll be honest, it stung. I’m not here to name names — that’s not something I do and besides, what’s the point? (I’ve since joined or help manage other author groups and have had amazing experiences. @BestSellingRead is a great example).

I left that original group for a few reasons:

  • needing to make actual money to help my family, instead of volunteering eight hours daily — plus nights and weekends — for something that generated very little income, and a great amount of frustration and discouragement
  • unilateral decision-making in what was supposed to be a collaborative effort
  • too much negativity, to the point that I could feel myself spiraling into a depression. I had to leave.

The last point is the one I’ll focus on today.

TRUST YOUR VISION

It was while I was still with the group that I began writing what would become Broken Pieces and someone said that to me. As I started sharing the pieces with our internal critique group, most of the members offered helpful critique. A few others were consistent in their negative bashing of my work. They told me that writing about serious issues wasn’t my branding, that nobody would want to read it, that’s it’s a downer.

(I do take a small measure of satisfaction in winning six awards, having two Top 10 Amazon reviewers give the book five stars, and being signed by Booktrope for print — which drops on Amazon this weekend — but I digress.)

I’m no different than many a newbie writer: I let that feedback seep into my consciousness and started to question the work that poured out of me (I tell my editor it’s ‘word vomit’ for a reason). Fortunately, she had my back and kept telling me to trust my vision, ignore the negativity and keep writing. Thank goodness I listened to her!

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION

After much introspection, I continued on with my project. The issue with what this person said to me echoed my own misgivings: would people connect to Broken Pieces’ ‘pieces,’ which deals with childhood sexual abuse, date rape, suicide, and difficult relationships? It definitely wasn’t my normal ‘brand,’ that much is true, though, as a nonfiction writer already, I felt I could pull it off with some changes in my marketing strategy.

Ultimately, I stuck with my vision for one basic, highly personal reason: I had finally given myself permission to discuss the childhood sexual abuse. It became empowering to share that, instead of hiding it in shame, as I had done my whole life. Who was this person to tell me what to do or how to write? It was a great lesson for me:

NOBODY has the right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t write (legal exceptions notwithstanding).

(If you’re still worried that you’ll have to wait until your parents die to write a story with sex in it, guess what? Your’e an adult, possibly with kids of your own. As my father said, ‘How do you think you got here?’ Or as I say, the jig is up. They know.)

PEOPLE WILL HATE IT. GET OVER IT.

Negative reviews are a bitter pill to swallow. I’m no different than anyone else. I certainly don’t like reading reviews that call my book ‘whiny and boring,’ or say that ‘everyone has dealt with this stuff’ (which offends me greatly, particularly as a voice for other survivors) but whatever — it says more about them than me.). I don’t think I’m perfect, and I’m open to learning from readers.

But it’s a review. It’s one review. A few hated it, more than a few have loved it. Regardless, I keep writing.

Too many authors are crushed by negative reviews, and my hope is to tell you that yea, it hurts. But at least they read it. Not every book has to be a #1 bestseller on the New York Times list to be a success. A success is pouring your everything into a book and making it the best you possibly can (hire professionals, people: editor, proofreader, cover artist, formatter). Surround yourself with the best — I guarantee it rubs off.

DEFINE YOUR SUCCESS

What’s my definition of success? A success is when a fellow survivor contacts me and pours his/her heart out because we have a common bond. There are many greater measurements of success besides sales. Decide what will help you silence the negative voices and move forward.

Being a writer isn’t easy. Sometimes negative criticism is what we need, to push and motivate us to really dig deep and pull out the good stuff. For some writers, that’s what it takes. But protect yourself. Don’t let other people hang their issues on you. Shake it off.

And always, always, keep writing.