Two years ago I talked to an author, and they broke me.
Yeah, yeah, I can hear it already, “No one can break you but you.” AND, “REAL writers don’t let others stop them.”
But sometimes, others can and do have an impact on you. Don’t lie to me or yourself.
This author is pretty well-known, especially in the horror realms, and was someone l looked up to. I’d actually been compared to this darkly lyrical writer in the past, and was pleased by the comparisons. I looked to this person as inspiration. I bought this person’s books, I put them in a place of pride on my shelf. I kept the first one I ever bought, dog-eared and so well loved, complete with the hesitant underlining of a fledgling writer for so long that I had to put a rubber band around it to keep it in one piece.
I found out I was going to be attending a con with this person. It was happenstance; I had already bought my ticket and made my plans when this special guest was brought to my attention. I was wide-eyed and salivating at the chance to meet this person.
I planned my whole weekend around this person’s schedule. I wanted to hear them read, I wanted to be part of their small group discussion, I wanted to take in every iota of advice/experience/knowledge that I could.
I was worse than disappointed.
My first experience was not bad. The reading was as ethereal as I expected, moving and daunting. I wondered if I could ever hold an audience so casually and yet so completely. Then things went wrong…I moved to the small group discussion where this author was so casually vicious in demeaning their own work that I couldn’t catch my breath. This author sneered at a book I had brought to be signed, saying that they were ashamed of it and never wanted to see it again.
I, the confused and bruised wide-eyed worshiper, slid the book into my bag as casually as I could.
The author went on to say the other two I held in my hands were only marginally better. I instantly didn’t want to read them…I wondered if I had enough courage to even ask this person to sign them. I was so aghast, I couldn’t think. I just sat there as blow after verbal blow knocked my hero off their pedestal, and ground them into the dirt.
In shock, I walked out of the panel.
Hoping for the best, I waited.
When the author walked out, I turned back into the gleeful little girl.
I remember saying, “You’re such an inspiration. You make me want to write.”
And I remember the answer. Every soul crushing syllable, “What an awful thing to say. I would not wish writing on my worst enemy.”
I walked away, with my books signed, but I threw them in the trash when I got home from the con.
I’d love to sit here and tell you that those words didn’t impact me, but you know they already did. For the last 2 years I have dabbled in writing, I have not committed to it like I had in the past. For the last 2 years I’ve wished that it was easier and bemoaned that I didn’t want do it more. For the last 2 years I’ve had to put up with my wife badgering me to get back to writing.
Now, I’m not sitting here saying that this person was the reason I quit writing…I am the reason I quit writing. I quit because I wasn’t getting the responses I wanted, I was struggling to find a length that I liked that wasn’t half way to novella and twice as big as the biggest short story. I was feeling like a hack. Editing made everything I wrote look horrible to my eyes. Yeah, all that. BUT that author could have said one positive thing and it might have negated all those struggles. Knowing that my idol was pulling for me to succeed, yeah, that might have spurred me on.
I saw that author again recently, and I couldn’t stay far enough away for my taste. The hurt is still very real, the anger still simmers at the surface…but this time, instead of letting that person get to me, I reveled in a rediscovery of me as a writer. It is not my fault that they HATE writing and yet do it anyway…it is not my fault that I have a love-hate relationship with writing myself…it is not my fault that they have become so twisted that they can’t see the joy that might bring if they would just stop being so full of the useless drama…it is not my fault that I once liked their writing…
It is my fault that I let someone else become an excuse for me giving up on writing, when I should have been strong enough to admit that I was done for a while and needed a break.
Now that I can admit that, I can move on…and take up the mantle once more. Will I stick with it, I don’t know. We will have to see.