The Highs and Lows of Writing Life

The Highs and Lows of Writing Life

This morning, I received my first official (non-Medium) byline in a respected literary journal.

To say I’m excited would be putting it mildly. I’m THRILLED. Over the moon crazy stupid excited.

When I woke this morning, I immediately grabbed my cell phone and went to BREVITY’s website to see if my post was up. And there it was! That’s me! In full color! And the words I wrote are RIGHT THERE for everyone to see!

OMG.

So, I did what any self-respecting writer would do: I shared the crap out of that post. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, my website… I plastered the link to any and all social media sites. (Well, the ones I understand. I mean, I’m over 40. There’s only so much I can do these days.)

Almost immediately, the love poured in. I received dozens of positive comments on the BREVITY site. People subscribed to my newsletter. There were hearts on Twitter and likes on Facebook and virtual hugs all around.

It was such a high. “You are a phenomenal writer who can do no wrong,” my good friend, Ego, shouted. If I had a balcony, I’d be out there throwing kisses and waving to my adoring crowd.

But soon, the likes and the hearts and claps and all the love trickled to a standstill.

This was bound to happen. I mean, it had been about an hour since my piece was published and shared, and that’s like eight years in social media time.

People had moved on to other things. Which is not to say that they no longer liked my work, but how many times can you applaud one 1,000 word post before it’s time to let go?

Ego, however, did not take kindly to this pivot. “You suck,” she hissed at me. “Writer? You’re not a writer. You wrote one blog that did OK. It was a fluke. Get over yourself.”

Then, slowly, the pace picked up again. A couple of new likes, a few kind comments, and Ego was back to shaking her money maker like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

It’s been like this all morning. It’s not even lunchtime yet, and I already have whiplash from all the highs and lows.

 
Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels

Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels

 

I find it fascinating (and exhausting) that I can veer so wildly from elation to depression solely as a result of the response to my writing. I understand that vulnerability is inherent to the writing process, and part of that involves being sensitive to others, but man… At this rate I’m going to need to down a couple cocktails just to get through the afternoon.

I would love to be one of those creatives who can put their work out into the world and then move on. “That work is behind me,” I’d declare, stoically. “It belongs to the people now. I have moved on to other pieces. Only greatness lays before me.”

I’ve heard these people exist and I envy them. To be able to release a part of yourself — your words, your thoughts, your soul — to the universe and not let the public’s response affect you must be a beautiful way to be.

But that ain’t me.

I allow every reaction, comment, and applause to heighten my sense of self, while each minor critique, rejection, or ignored post shreds my confidence.

My biggest flaw as a writer (perhaps as a human) is that I hand so much of my self-worth over to others — strangers, no less. It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life, and social media has only exacerbated it.

I want people to like what I’ve written. I want the applause and the accolades. But I need to train myself to understand that any positive response, or lack thereof, isn’t a reflection of me as a person or even as a writer.

Some pieces are going to resonate more than others. Some readers are going to like my style, some aren’t. The time of day I publish, the publication I choose, other world affairs are all going to impact how well my piece is received.

Not everything, good or bad, is ever about me. Or you. This is a mantra I have to repeat to myself.

Hopefully it’s something I’ll learn soon. I’m getting sick of all the whiplash.

A version of this post first appeared in Writers Guild

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