Friday, March 27, 2009

Beating back the chickens...

Authors like Cormac McCarthy and JD Salinger have reputations for being reclusive. You ever wonder why?

I blame the chickens.

In today's world with the Internet it is really easy to be visible. Anyone and everyone can and does mingle freely here. It can be great. If it wasn't for the Internet I wonder if I (being a huge extrovert) could handle being a writer. But it also has its drawbacks...what I call the chickens.

Chickens are the happenings (and sometimes people) who take little pecks out of you. For authors this can be in the form of a negative review, a slap from someone on a blog, or your own petty jealousy when someone else gets some award/book deal/praise you didn't get.

None of these things are major. All of them are things you should shake off, but over time, no matter how good you are at shaking, those little pecks slow you down and you find yourself slipping into a less than enthusiastic place. Some authors go further moving to what I call "life on the ledge."

For the most part, I don't think people mean to be chickens. In fact a chicken can even come in the form of praise or recognition. Your first book does great, people are excited about the next one, and doubt starts to build in your head...what if this is the one that flops? What if they all find out I'm a fraud?

Those chickens, they are sneaky beasts.

So, what do you do to avoid them? Do you follow McCarthy and Salinger's examples? Cut off your Internet and cultivate a love of being alone? Do you stop writing at least with the goal of publication all together? (Some authors do.) Or do you figure out a way to keep those chickens at bay? How do you live on the Internet without feeding the little critters?

I have my technique which usually involves a quick and hard reality check. This means stepping back and looking at the big picture instead of getting caught up in whatever the Internet passion of the moment it is. It also means not visiting sites or reading news that I know will feed my chickens. If your chickens get fat from your daily visits to Amazon, or a certain email loop that is one flame war after another, or even seeing deals posted on Publisher Marketplace--then don't go there. Cut yourself off. You can do it.

I've eliminated a lot of chickens from my life in the last year, and I have to say I am a much happier author because of it. AND while I have glanced at the ledge I haven't stepped onto it or packed up my bags to move to the deep woods.

How about you? Any chickens?


Teresa Bodwell said...

Here's a technique--picturing these things as chickens will make you laugh.

I'm going to try it, anyway.

Question--so where is this ledge?

Lori Devoti said...

Terry, I can honestly say I've never seen you near the ledge. You are one of those rare sane authors.

Jess Granger said...

Isn't sane a matter of degree?


Casey said...

I think you're very wise to avoid those chicken-causing people, places and incidents, Lori. I try to do the same to keep the chickens in my life under control. Unfortunately, one of my chicken-inciting incidents is reading fiction. I read good fiction and I get absolutely paralyzed, convinced that I could never be as good/clever/talented/smart. I have learned the only way to control that chicken is to lop off it's head--I don't often read fiction. It's painful, I miss it. But that's what helps keep me from the ledge.

Tricia Fields said...

Great post, Lori. I would have never thought of these little things as chickens, but they do take little pecks out of you, especially when you're not published yet. Writing is a tough business, and you have to find ways to "beat back [your] chickens" if you're going to survive in this industry.

I used to chase my great-aunts chickens, until they turned around, then I ran from them. I wonder what kind of weapon I need to get to beat them back, instead of running away from them, or letting them attack.