I saw a comment the other day from a new novelist that did not sit right with me at all. I won’t link to it because I don’t aim to stir up trouble for others here; that’s not what I’m about. Still I feel the general issue merits addressing head on.
She wrote she had taken up writing because she wanted to work for herself and be her own boss.
As I read that, I thought, hang on a minute; that misses the point. If you’re, say, keeping a diary no one but you will ever read, that’s one thing. But as a published author you are NOT working for yourself and you are NOT your own boss.
My boat is on the shore,
And my bark is on the sea.
I forget how the song ends, but here I am at Brighton just on the point of embarking for France. I have dragged myself out of London, as a horse drags himself out of the slough, or a fly out of a honey-pot, almost leaving a limb behind him at every tug. Not that I have been immersed in pleasure and surrounded by sweets, but rather up to the ears in ink and harassed by printers’ devils.
I never have had such fagging in altering, adding, and correcting; and I have been detained beyond all patience by delays of the press. Yesterday I absolutely broke away, without waiting for the last sheets. They are to be sent after me here by mail, to be corrected this morning, or else they must take their chance. From the time I first started pen in hand on this work, it has been nothing but hard driving with me….
He worked hard to produce the tale. Next, finished, he became bogged down in the corrections.
Sound familiar? If you’re a novelist, see, you’re not unique in your sufferings. Washington Irving went through the same creative struggles and endured similar frustrations.
A biographer noted that, after the book was released, Irving faced his critics as we all do. Indeed he even endured what might today be labeled “trolling”:
Irving considered [Tales of a Traveller] on the whole his best work; but though it had a large sale, its reception in England was not quite what he had hoped for; and in America it was received by the press with something like hostility. Unfortunately some busybody in America made it his concern to forward to Irving all the ill-natured flings which could be gleaned from American notices of the new book. The incident – with all its unpleasantness – was trifling enough, but to Irving’s raw sensitiveness it was torture. He was overwhelmed with an almost ludicrous melancholy, could not write, could not sleep, could not bear to be alone. This petty outburst of critical spleen, backed as it evidently was by personal antagonism on the part of a few obscure journalists, actually left him dumb for more than a year.
Imagine if Irving had had to deal with the internet? If he needed to face lashings on Facebook? If he found himself beset by disparaging tweets launched his way?:
.@WashingtonIrving You stink! @FCooper is much better. Bet you’ll block me now. #loser
If I’m having a bad day, I try to remember that. We all should. Not everyone is going to like what you write. :-)