In the introduction to Wifey by Judy Blume, she said, “Angst is good for writers…contentment is bad for writers.” She’s right. She also said about writing Wifey, “Some congratulated me on having written a real book [one that wasn’t young adult]…some were angry that I hadn’t used a pseudonym, others that I even had such thoughts.” I feel you, Judy. Seems some folks were less than impressed with some things I'd put to paper. And, I gotta say, I’m surprisingly okay with it.
I’ve spent a good part of my life overly concerned what other people thought of me. When I was growing up I worried how my family, the elders, and the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses saw me. I scared easy whenever anyone, for any reason, looked at me. As I got older I looked to boys/men for validation. What a mess that was. When I became a stepparent, I hoped with all my might that my stepkids would inflate my ego with unconditional love and dependence (more about step parenthood in Train Gone's sequel, Mirrors Strike Back).
I’m forty-three, who knows how much time I’ve got left? I refuse to spend these precious moments bellyaching about what others think. I’ve worked so hard to fully accept myself and there’s no way in hell a recent, one-star review will shatter my self-image, trampling over all the hard work I’ve done to finally love and accept myself—ugly scars, potty mouth, and all.
I love writing way too much to stop just because someone didn’t like it. I’ve had sort of the same experience with interpreting for the past twenty-or-so years: some clients love me, others could do without me. And I know it ain’t about me or who I am. I know I am not for everyone, everyone is not for me, and it’s cool, really.
I actually snickered to myself when I saw the review because it is a fantastic opportunity to practice being Teflon. Anyone else’s experience of my book (their experience of me) has nothing to do with me and everything to do with who they are, which I obviously have no hand in and no control over.
To my one-star reviewer—it’s a good thing you stopped when you did. There is a lot more in my memoir (aside from just the introduction you couldn’t get past because of the “cussing”) to be offended by, because lots of offensive shit has happened in my life.
Jack Nicholson said in one of my favorite movies, As Good As It Gets, “Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes, with boats, and friends, and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story; good times, noodle salad.” Well, sadly, there weren’t many picnics featuring noodle salad in my book. It’s okay, I’ve made peace with it.
And, one-star reviewer, I also want to thank you. You helped me see that I don’t need validation from anyone except myself. I really do appreciate that sincerely. I see your review and raise you a sequel (there will be a “strap-on“ scenario so save your pennies to buy more pearls for clutching) and some fucked-up fiction; I’ve got characters coming at me from all sides for their stories to be told.
If you’re a fellow writer/author trying to make peace with what your family, friends, or strangers think of you getting those twisted thoughts and real-life experiences out of your head and onto paper—KEEP. GOING. It’s the most therapeutic thing you could do for yourself. Don’t stop. Don’t censor. Let people think what they might, and for Christ’s sake, write for you.
Repeat after me: here I stand and the world will adjust.