Ed’s Casual Friday: Get a helmet

We are all writers.

No, I don’t mean everybody, I mean specifically the people likely to be reading this post on Indies Unlimited. I totally don’t think just *everybody* can write, and if I ever had thought such a thing, grading freshman comp papers would have disabused me of the notion. Seriously, some of those kids couldn’t have put together a suicide note with a discernible climax. But I digress…

As writers, probably an inordinate number of us tend to be “sensitive” people. We spend the balance of our time living in worlds that nobody else can see, writing down words nobody else can hear, describing places that MapQuest can’t find. Our lives are to a large extent, internal. And on top of that, we tend to be people who feel things rather deeply. I don’t think someone who is not fairly empathetic can write a character other people are going to care about, and you can’t convey emotion if you can’t feel it yourself.

Thus, a whole bunch of us are pretty much basket cases to begin with. Bowls full of jelly and raw nerves. And while that may be helpful and even necessary to the process of creating a story, it also means that when we put those stories out there, and (gasp!) somebody doesn’t like them…disaster! Oh, gawd, they hate my book, so that means they hate me! I’m a hack, I’m a loser, I suck! They see right through me! Doo-lang, doo-lang! Goodbye, cruel world…”

If you hang around a lot of writers’ groups, either in the virtual world or in…you know, that other world outside the window by your desk, then you’ll see a lot of that. Not always so dramatic, but a lot of it.

Look at this terrible review I got. Look at this *one line* of this otherwise glowing review I got. Why don’t I have more reviews? What’s wrong with this cover? What’s wrong with this blurb? Why don’t I have more sales? Why are people over at XYZ so mean? Why are there people in the world who just don’t seem to like me?

There’s a lot of anger from affronted writers, even more angst, and an awful lot of “kiss my boo-boo and make it better” pleas for validation from fellow members of the scribbling tribe, as we all pretty much know where each other are coming from. Some of it, I know, is an honest attempt to get opinions about how to improve going forward. But a lot of it is just wallowing. Holding our breath and pounding our fists and kicking the floor. And yes, venting feels good, and a virtual pat on the head or a verbal ice cream cone can cure some ills. <hugs>

But gang, really. At some point, we’ve got to let all this stuff roll of our backs, and get back to work. Every moment spent bemoaning the fact that somebody out there thinks your carefully crafted narrative is gooseplooey (gooseplooey being the stuff that comes out of geese when they are squeezed too hard) is a moment lost.

You could have written the first line of your next chapter in the time it took you to share the fact that BieberGrrri143 on Goodreads thinks your main character is a dork. Maybe it will make you feel better for a minute, but is it really the best use of your time and energy? Really? Worrying about BieberGrrrl143? (I made that name up, so apologies if it is actually the twitter handle of anybody reading this).

So, call this one Eddie’s Tough Love Advice column. Something didn’t go your way, somebody said something mean, the reading public hasn’t fallen madly in love with you yet?

Tough gooseplooey. Suck it up. Put on your big kid pants and get back in there. Harden your heart and steel your nerves, and next time, you come out swinging at the bell and you knock ‘em on their ass with your next story. You don’t think you can do that? Then what the hell are you doing here? There’s the door, ain’t nobody forcing you to be here. This is the life we chose, or the life that chose us, but either way: This is our life, and this is what we do. We are writers. We can drop somebody’s jaw from a thousand miles away, touch somebody more than the person standing next to them, make them bust out laughing in church. At a funeral. You want somebody to love you, buy a dog. You want somebody to love your writing, write it better. And know that you are never, ever, EVER going to write ANYTHING that SOMEBODY out there is not going to absolutely HATE, and they may well tell you so. So the hell what? Honey Badger don’t care. Life sucks, get a helmet, and get back to work.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our scribbling dead.”

That last bit was Shakespeare (mostly), and BieberGrrrl143 probably thinks he sucks, too.


As always in closing, an excerpt from a real one-star review, of a real book, by a real reader.

“I don’t really like feminist writing, it seemed like she was just ranting a lot about random stuff that upset her.”

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

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M. Edward McNally is the author of the Norothian Cycle books: The Sable City, Death of a Kingdom, and The Wind from Miilark, and multiple free short story volumes titled Eddie’s Shorts. He has been writing for twenty of the last thirty years and does not recommend the ten year spell of writer’s block in the middle. Ed is a contributor at Indies Unlimited (IU Bio Page) and tilts at his own windmills over at http://sablecity.wordpress.com/


Author: M. Edward McNally

Epic fantasy author M. Edward McNally is a North Carolinian of Irish/Mexican extraction. He has a Masters in English Lit from ISU and Russian/East European History from ASU. He grew up mostly in the Midwest along I-35 northbound (KS, IA, MN), and now resides in the scrub brush surrounding Phoenix AZ, where the scorpions and javelinas play. Learn more about Ed at his blog, and his Amazon author page.

45 thoughts on “Ed’s Casual Friday: Get a helmet”

  1. I'm the first commenter!!!

    I like this post. The validation for so many things in life needs to come from inside of us. When you have a vision, you must insulate yourself from naysayers and create what you feel in your heart and soul.


  2. Seriously, some of those kids couldn’t have put together a suicide note with a discernible climax.


    I'm sorry, I about fell over laughing. You know someone can't write when…

    Great post! You don't get better unless someone somewhere out there tells you they hate your work. As rude, mean, obnoxious and downright spiteful as people can be on this autonomous thing we call the Internets, it's still a driving force when they say OMIGAWDZ YOU SUCK!

    I know when that day comes for me I'll cry. I fully admit I will cry. Like a baby. But I'll be damned if whoever gives me that bad review ruins my writing or self-esteem.

  3. Love the article. We have this discussion in our Writer's Group with newbies who can't take the "heat." Hard to learn, but necessary if you are going to become a better writer. Thanks for posting.

  4. Ed, this was awesome – on the money…I couldn't agree more. Standing ovation, and I raise my cup of coffee to you, dear sir! Hmmm…Sir Edward McNally. I think that has a nice ring to it.

  5. What about the gooseplooey, people? It's gotta be all about the gooseplooey, new word of the week in this household.

    An old ambulance station mucker used to say, "Even God can't please everyone, what chance do you think you stand?" Words which keep me sane to this day.

  6. You guys. lol

    So true, though. Most of us hardly take in the great reviews but we reel from one negative comment.

    I had to mark essays as a TA for a class of Soc. undergrads. 90% couldn't make a logical argument and 80% couldn't put a coherent sentence together. Sad.

  7. Amen, Ed! Been dealing with a few whiny, self-centered writers like that among various groups myself. Hey, life's not easy. There's way worse things happening in the world than someone not liking your book. Deal with it and move on.

  8. (Old joke)

    So when I was younger, I fell off my bike in the driveway, and scraped up a knee. I was sitting there crying, and my Grandpa, old Korean War Vet, gets up off the porch and hobbles over. He hobbles because of the shrapnel still in his knees.

    "There, there, little fellah," he says, leaning over me. "Dry them tears. You're gonna get hurt a lot worse than that in this bad ol' world."

    Then he poked me in the eye.


    1. contd. [after small domestic crisis]

      My head knows that nothing I do can ever be perfect but my heart does sickening things when I discover something as simple as a typo. I just wish there were some mental equivalent to running on a treadmill or pumping iron 🙁

  9. Great article Ed. Sucked me in with the suicide note (a chuckle), and then kick started my day with a real belly laugh.

    My wife came in to see what I was finding so funny, first thing in the morning, and then after reading it (and laughing) she said you guys have no idea: you should try acting (she’s an actor) on for size.

  10. Ed, you beautiful bastard you. Bitching about bitching. And it's bitchin. And yeah: Seriously, some of those kids couldn’t have put together a suicide note with a discernible climax. But I digress…


  11. AMEN!!! I loved your post. Writing is tough business..but most of us do it because we love it…and you don't give up on the things you love because other people don't like it! You will never please everyone–nor should you. What a boring world that would be.

    Now back to writing!

  12. Well, obviously someone is not afraid of Virginia Woolf. Is no one sacred? 🙂 I got a one-star once – the most difficult part of receiving it was not being able to get in my reviewer's face and yell "You just didn't GET it! It's SATIRE, dum-dum!" But one must control one's urges to mayhem… and just keep writing.

    This is a great site. More! More!

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