Aspiring Authors: Defend Yourself from Negativity
If you’re already an author, you’ve likely been faced with someone, at some point, that didn’t believe in you. Whether it came from a place of love (trying to save you from “inevitable” failure) or malice, most of us have had a naysayer or two in our lives that told us we would never make it as a writer. But if we had listened to them, where would we be now? I know I’d still be stuck behind a desk at a day job I hated, as I was for many years before I found the courage to giving writing a serious try.
To paraphrase a famous saying, the journey of a thousand books begins with the first word put down on a blank page. Sure, you may have to push past all the doubters in your life to get started on that journey, but if you keep the facts that Ginger lays out below in mind, it’ll be easier to defend yourself against their negativity.
Ernest Hemingway once proclaimed: “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”
And despite the writing groups we might be part of, and the vibrant community online, there’s a certain amount of truth to that. After all, writing can only be done alone. We retreat into our own inner imaginations and the only time other people get to experience that is when they read and discover whatever it is you’ve written.
But there’s another form of loneliness many writers suffer from, and that’s the loneliness caused by being surrounded by friends and family who don’t believe in you.
“It’s too difficult to make it as a writer,” somebody might have told you. “There’s no money in it,” said another. “You need to get a real job.” I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t have at least one story of having their dreams and aspirations crushed beneath the heel of a callous friend or family member.
And it’s disheartening – massively so. It takes so much courage and audacity to even attempt to make it as a writer that a few cruel words can be all it takes to make somebody give up on their dreams. My own father told me a story of writing a science fiction story in the 1950s, but tearing it up before he ever submitted it to the magazine he’d written it for – not believing he’d ever get it published.
That story nearly broke my heart, because it meant my father has a piece of that same spirit inside him as I do, and yet he’d never had the opportunity to let it fly free. After hearing that story, it made almost everything I write and publish feel like a tribute to him, because his support growing up gave me the courage and audacity to do what he couldn’t.
But sometimes that’s all it takes to make or break a writer. Just one moment of courage – a moment that can be snapped like a twig by the careless words of somebody close to you.
With that in mind, here is some perspective I’ve clung to through my career as an author. It’s helped keep me marching forward no matter how lonely the road got – and any success I’ve ever had as an author stems from staying the course despite everybody all around me telling me to quit.
Negative People Don’t Know What they’re talking about!
The first and most important thing to remember when you encounter negativity from people is that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about!
They literally don’t. Anybody who tells you “it’s too difficult to make it as a writer” comes from a background in which they have zero factual information about what it takes to become a writer. If you went up to an actual author – even one of the most successful ones, like Lee Child or J.K. Rowling, they’d never tell you that “it’s too difficult to make it as a writer” because they’re living proof that you can make it as a writer.
J.K. Rowling was on government assistance when she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Lee Child had recently been laid off from Granada Television when he created the character of Jack Reacher. Neither of these authors came from wildly privileged backgrounds and yet they’re two of the most successful writers in living history. If they can make it, somebody like you can make it.
And remember, you don’t need to reach a fraction of their success to be able to support yourself as a self-published author these days. Self-publishing coach Nick Stephenson theorized that you only need 10,000 readers to be able to live a comfortable life as an author, and while that might sound like a lot, it’s really not. Just remember that there are currently around 3 million subscribers to Kindle Unlimited, and they themselves are just a fraction of the number of people who buy and read books across the world.
Services like Amazon.com have forever changed the game, and you’ve got more chance to make it as an author now than you’ve ever had before – and just by reading that, you’ve already got a better understanding of the self-publishing industry than anybody who tells you “it’s too difficult to make it as a writer.”
Negative People Just Don’t Get It!
There’s another reason even people who are supposed to love and care about you don’t believe that you’ll ever make it as an author – because the sheer idea of it sounds ridiculous to them.
They think: “Write a book? Publish it? Who does that?”
There’s a clinical psychologist called Jordan Peterson who published a paper arguing that 70% of people never express themselves creatively, and that means you have to realize many of the people who don’t believe in your dreams simply aren’t programmed to have dreams like that.
These are people who’ve never written a story, or a poem. Who’ve never penned a love song, or painted a picture. The majority of people you interact with every single day lack any form of creativity to the same degree that you possess it, and therefore to talk of things like making a career from self-publishing sounds like witchcraft to them.
You are one of the chosen few! Not only have you been burdened with the desire to express yourself creatively, you’ve also been left with the responsibility to do so! If 7 out of 10 people never express themselves creatively, then who the hell is supposed to? Well, look in the mirror! Not only do you have everything it takes to make it as a self-published author – it’s practically your evolutionary duty to do so!
So, just remember that when people scoff at your dreams. I always like to say that writers “hear the sound of trumpets” that other people don’t – and that means it’s your responsibility to answer their call.
Negative People Are Jealous!
There’s a third and more sinister reason why some of the people closest to you will try to sink your dreams and aspirations; and normally they’re the people who do “hear the sound of trumpets” and have creative aspirations of their own.
And why shouldn’t they be? I mentioned earlier that it takes both courage and audacity to try and express yourself creatively, and for some people that audacity is more than they can stand!
How dare somebody they know try to make it creatively! Why should they get to write and publish their books and I don’t? Who do they think they are? The next James Patterson, or something?
This is sadly an attitude almost all writers experience during the course of their self-publishing journey. You have to understand that elevating your life and making your dreams come true really is an audacious thing to do and it rubs a lot of people up the wrong way.
Any success you achieve will highlight to people who lack your courage that they, too, could be doing this.
Up to this point they might have clung to different excuses for their lack of courage. They’ll blame their background, or their circumstances. They’ll claim they’re too busy, or they have their family to support. They’ll always have an external reason for why they never made it as a creative person – but they could have done so, if it wasn’t for that!
But when you succeed creatively, it demolishes the validity of those excuses. If somebody they know – somebody who they perceive as no better than they are – manages to achieve the creative success they haven’t, it cuts them to their very core because it makes them accept that they’re the problem; not the world around them.
So, they’re going to do whatever they can to make sure you don’t succeed. They’ll try to gaslight you into believing the impossibility of your dreams. They’ll try to drag you back down to their level, because if they don’t it will just make their sense of inadequacy grow.
It can be painful to deal with people like this, and they’re thoroughly toxic. However, just remember that for all the pain you’re causing them by pursuing your dreams, eventually it’ll reach a tipping point. There’s going to be a stage at which this person stops resenting your success and starts to acknowledge it. Instead of antagonizing them, your success will inspire them; and perhaps even break them free of the mental barriers they’ve created to hold them back.
Or not. They might just keep being toxic. Either way, the way to deal with their negativity is the same: Ignore it.
You can’t let other people drag you down, and you have to develop a tough skin. That tough skin is part of being a writer anyway – the negative reviews, the rejection slips, and the flops that proceed your first best-seller. It all takes a toll on you, but the only way to be successful is to keep marching forward.
Stay the course!
At the end of the day, that’s the most important piece of advice: Stay the course.
A lot of people scoff, but I truly believe anybody can be a successful self-published author. You just have to learn the craft of writing and follow the process of successful self-publishing. However, it’s a journey, not a destination. I wrote and self-published eleven full-length books before I ever published my first best-seller, and each time I did I had to withstand the negativity of my friends and family who didn’t believe in me.
But if you continue studying the craft and keep publishing books, you won’t need them to believe in you. Hell, you won’t even have to believe in yourself. You just keep doing it.
Because ultimately, that’s the only reason successful authors have become that way. The most successful self-published authors got that way by continuing to write and self-publish no matter what anybody else told them. They just kept on going, getting a little bit better each and every time, and eventually they reached a tipping point at which point it worked.
And that’s the journey you have to take – and the only way to ever get back at the people who didn’t believe in you, or told you “you can’t do it”, is to prove them all absolutely, irrevocably wrong.
Keep the faith. I believe in you, and so do all the other writers reading this blog.