I can't stop listening to the V for Vendetta soundtrack at this point, which makes this the second Dario Marianelli score in a row that I've gotten hooked on. I'm even to the point in my predictably cyclical obsessions where I would like to listen to something else, maybe some nice Garbage or at least something with guitars and maybe even some words, but I can't, because the soundtrack has eaten my soul.
Speaking of VFV, I'm fairly disgusted with myself at the moment. I think over the course of all the comments I've gotten in the last few days, I've had exactly two and a half negative ones--one wasn't even about the writing, but rather my hidden antitheft text, but I figure you'd only get mad about that if you were, you know, actually trying to steal and repost the entire thing. One really was on the level of "Why the hell do you people think this is so great?" And the half was, "It's good, but not her best." And both are fair comments. And I know how fortunate I am to get such positive feedback (there's got to be other negative comments out there; they're just not where I can see them). I'm disgusted, you see, because this is how "tons of good feedback and one pissy comment" register in my brain:
And I do this all the time. I get two bad book reviews in magazines and I'm still not over them--intellectually I am, because I can see either how this statement here made a good point and I could learn from it, or that statement there just seemed to be kind of mean and useless for my own purposes. But there's some part of my lizard hindbrain that still cringes in horror every time I think of Total Film. And I was hoping that posting V/15M would boost my confidence and I could get back to work on material for a second book, but two and a half negative comments and I'm curled up all fetal in a corner again, because all I can see now when I look at my work is, "You know, this is really pretty pedestrian, and overlong to boot."
I want to clarify here that the point of this entry is not to beg for validation. Everyone was so enthusiastic over on the original entry and I really appreciate that; I'm not asking you to hold my hand and tell me all over again. The reason I'm telling you all this is that I know I'm not the only writer who goes through this; this is more about wanting to show you the process I'm going through, and what I'm trying to do about it. So all this morning, I've been trying to focus on a few key ideas:
1) I enjoyed the writing, and I accomplished something just by finishing it. (And in my case, particularly so, because I have a hard time finishing anything.) Bad reviews can't take away my own pleasure in working.
2) Other people enjoyed it. Specifically, the people I wrote it for, the people with a similar sense of humor, the same cultural demographic (somewhat youngish, fannish, nerdish) as me, the people who have supported me for the last two years.
3) No one will ever write anything that everyone, to a man, woman, and child, will like.
4) I should take what I can from negative comments--like, I do understand that the most frequent criticism is, "She goes on too long," and therefore this is an actual problem I have, and I know it, and I try to work on that every time I start something new. But once I've taken what I can use from it, I need to stop intellectually trying to justify or pick apart the comment and just put it away. Because if I'm happy with the piece, and a majority of other people are happy with it, there's nothing else to do, really. I don't have to justify its existence or mine.
If I start getting a lot of criticism, yes, that means something has probably gone wrong, and I need to figure out what and fix it. But I have got to quit psyching myself out by letting negative comments loom so large in my brain. Because, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if they're right. Maybe I'm the worst writer in the world and I'm completely overrated and my work is, objectively, crap. But if it makes me happy and it makes other people happy, it's worth something. That's the mantra I'm pulling out of this. People who think I'm a crap writer can be completely right, and it still doesn't matter, because I still love writing and while I should always try to be better--everyone should--I can't hide under my bed just because not everyone will like it. Because they won't. Because it doesn't work that way. If you're determined to write, there's a point at which you need to listen to criticism--but there's a point at which you have to close your eyes and move on.
And I'm not saying, "I, Cleo alone, should remember these things." I'm saying I should, and you should, and anyone who loves writing should, and that's why I'm telling you this. Because I can't be the only writer who feels such deep, crippling fear that she can't even open Word in the morning.