A Writer's Soft Underbelly

Howdy, all! Want to say a quick thanks for all the birthday wishes. Had a great week, and your thoughtfulness made it even better. 

Also want to say welcome to the new followers. Hurricane Alex blew some of his good Web karma my way, and I always love having new faces around. 

Hope you enjoy my thoughts, I assure you I'll enjoy yours. (HINT HINT - Make sure you comment. Lots.)

Now for business. Well, as close to business as it gets around here...


Don't let the spectacles, cartoon covered sweatshirts, corduroy trousers and twitchy-eyed staring off into space fool you; writer's are a tough lot. At least we're supposed to be.

Rejection? Been there. Ridicule? Done that. Having our dreams hearts ripped out, danced upon and put back into place? Doing that tomorrow, and that's just breakfast.

We're all sarcastic and smarmy. We judge and get judged just for giggles. We're all artsy elitist who wear bulletproof underwear and trash even the most successful of our peers. 

"Blind monkeys with stumps for hands could've written that pig excrement, and somehow she made the NYTB list!"

 *maniacal laugh*

Yeah, not so much.

Don't get me wrong, some of us ARE smarmy. Some of us DO hate on our talented peers. Hell, some might actually own bulletproof undies. (Lots of powder is the key. So I'm told...)

And if you're going stay in the writing game for more than a couple of weekends a year, you're hide is going to toughen. It has to. That or you'll bleed to death from all the picking over that's required to actually get good at it.

So I suppose we are tough, in a fashion, but we're also enormously vulnerable.  

Rejection is a given. It sort of HAS to happen at some point. It's inevitable, but it still scares the hell out of us. We ridicule ourselves even if no one else does. We think what we do is utterly pointless and the worst kind of refuse--and that's often before we've written a word! 

It's just the process. It motivates. It drives. In that way, I think most writers would tell you a soft underside is just as key to doing the writing stuff as having thick skin. 

Vulnerability makes for good writing. Thick skin helps you survive until you find it.

Still, even if I know being sensitive is just part of the game, it sometimes gets the best of me.

If you're on Twitter I'm sure you've gotten at least one spam message that says something like: "Hey, have you heard what this person said about you?" or "People are saying bad things about your blog." There's always a link. It's usually from someone you don't know and are pretty sure never read anything you've written.

Now I've never clicked on one of those links, as I hear it's a pretty common virus scam. Plus, I'm not really one prone to care about what bad things people say about me, especially to the point I would electively subject myself to it. 

I like to think my momma raised me quicker than that; if you want to call me a jerk to my face, I'll listen, but don't expect me to track you down to hear it.

Still, it's a pretty insidious way to attack a writer's vulnerabilities. In this Web age, I think we're all a little sensitive to being talked about. It's the ugly flip side to the BUZZ (still hate that word) coin. 

Being talked about, having word spread about what we're doing on our blogs, Twitter, or with our writing, is important. It's how we grow beyond our coffee tables, desks, or wherever our writing habitats might be.

Most of us don't blog to be in a vacuum. We kind of hope other people will read it. Same with our writing. So when that talk/buzz turns negative, it can hurt.

Confession time: I'm paranoid about it. Not to the point I Google my name or anything, but I often wonder if people are out there saying bad things about me. 

Why am I paranoid? Over the years (?!) I've been doing this, I’ve caught a couple of other bloggers referencing my blog negatively on their blogs. I’m sure they didn’t think I’d read it, but I follow a good chunk of the people that follow my blog, and it popped up in my reader.

I use this as a personal example, but it makes me wonder if any of you have areas you're particularly vulnerable? Maybe I'm just touchy about the word-of-mouth stuff? 

I can take a bad critique pretty well. I wouldn't necessarily care if a non-writer said I was a fool. But something about the thought of having other writer-bloggers dissing me makes me squirm a little. 

In the end, I guess it's like all the other little things that eat at me as a writer: Eventually that spot will toughen and I'll be able to use it as motivation.



  1. I'm not sure what motivates people to go negative. To write bad reviews, or trash talk someone, or spread rumors (false and otherwise). There's so little to be gained from it. I always consider the situation and come away feeling that the person doing the negative talk usually reveals more about their own character than the person they are dissing.

    I do think, though, if a person reaches a certain level of success these days, the negative stuff goes with the territory. It does seem that a person either has to learn to shut it out or grow some very, very thick skin.

  2. I've caught a few snide remarks on Twitter, but no one's posted anything bad on a blog that I know of. I think it's the personal stuff that would bother me more than negative comments on my writing. Personal rejection is tough.

  3. What an adorable underbelly. :) Yes, Hurrican Alex has blown quite a few new followers your way, myself included. I've not noticed any negative comments, but I don;t go out of my way to look for them. As it is, even honest negative book reviews are hard to swallow, but I suppose it's something that comes with the territory. We'll just have to get used to it.

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger

  4. I try not to be paranoid nowadays. At one time I would start a blog and then delete it, or start a blog under a pen name. I still have that one but don't post much on it anymore. I got burned so badly one time that I temporarily swore I'd never blog again. My constant mantra now is: I don't care what they think, I don't care what they think. Just take a deep breath and keep on writing!

  5. Well, you know I love you, EJ, so 'taint me. (^;

    And as far as being bled... that's why I became a vampire.

    I don't do Twitter. Although I'm there (supposidly have alot of followers). I simply don't have time to mess with it. Barely have time to blog and follow blogs. I'm currently working on *laughing* my third novel and I hope to get it out of my sight SOON!

    I don't want to know what others say about me--especially strangers. HOwever, it surprises me when I learn that people around me like me. So, in your realm of actual (as apposed to virtual) friends, they are most important.

    Oh, and God, I want to scratch that cute little belly!!!!COOCHIE COOCKIE COOOO!

  6. We gotta be grateful for those hateful people. They make our armor thicker and stronger.

  7. It's so hard to balance the requisite sensitivity with thick skin. Sometimes I get them mixed up. Then my books get mean and I start crying over rejection. :/

  8. Every writer has insecurities and they can eat away at you if you let them. At some point you just figure out how to work around them or ignore them.

  9. Hey EJ, thanks for visiting by blog, I can asure you I would never say anything bad about anyone in this blogging world. So far in the 7-8 months I've been blogging I have only made warm friendly connections, must have been lucky!
    But I don't have time for Twitter, just would not fit it into my day!
    But, yes I do agree with you, writer's need tough outer skins, the trick is not to become bitter on the inside!

  10. It seems a bit petty for other people to post stuff about your blog on theirs. I give shout outs but if I read something I don't like, I walk away. Sorry to hear that happened. (PS - I might mention it if the person is a complete douche, but they would have to be a total douche)

  11. I don't play like that! I was nominated for an award and I did get the vibe from one author,how lame it all was. She also was nominated. A bunch of authors and writing blogs were also given a nod. It was mentioned in the vibe, they were discussing it on FB. I wasn't asked to be part of their group...so I knew what that meant. I was what they were chewing on. They didn't consider me worthy! No one said it to my face, they didn't have to. It hurt, because some of the nods follow my blog. I took the nomination off my blog site. I thought it was a nice gesture, but every time I saw it I felt them laughing at me. Okay, I'm not published, I need grammar for Dummies, I get it. It is great when those who are paving the way can feel good about themselves, while they try to kick those on the bottom rung of the ladder. It stung for awhile. I was the only poet nominated. I reminded myself my voice is different and let it go. Another ouch is before this author dropped the bomb on me. I had purchased their book. Now, I find it difficult to read...
    We all have scars, don't let them fester. There are so many nice, genuine souls to be found~ YOU are right about growing a thicker skin! Sorry, this happened to you!

  12. Haha--the first section had me laughing out loud. "Doing that tomorrow--and that's just for breakfast", hahaha. Indeed, we're not as tough as we look (or not), or even as we'd like. But vulnerability is an important process of growing--both as a writer and as a human being. The flip side (hate it that everything has a flip side, don't you?) is that with too much vulnerability we risk morphing into someone we're not (or writing in ways we wouldn't) just to please others. So, yeah, self-confidence has a place in our vulnerability--those two need to balance each other out.

    Great post!

  13. Hey E.J, I've been looking around your blog for your e-mail address and can't find it anywhere (I'm probably just missing it lol.) Can you e-mail me at Alyson_burdette (at) yahoo.com or point me to your adress so we can work out something for my blog tour? Thanks! And thanks for offering to host me. :)

  14. EJ, I love your voice. You're so entertaining.

    And what a fabulous post. Love it. I've never opened those twitter links either--but it's true, in our line of profession you have to be scared if anyone posts something negative about you. Our world is on the net, and anything can happen here.

    As to rejection, it's so great once you've gotten past the first hump. Yes, it still stings, but not as bad the further into the process you get. I've come a long way in the last year and it feels good. Feels good to realize how much I've callused. <---LOL. That sounds weird ;)

    You definitely have your head in the right place and you're a tough one, EJ. That definitely shows. :D

  15. As long as the actual joy of the writing outweighs these kinds of negatives...I'm good to keep going. My biggest writing credit was in a Sunday Magazine section of our daily paper. Probably hundreds of thousands of people saw it...and I received some very nice mail and email. Then I looked to where the same piece was published online and read some pretty smarmy comments. To me, there was a balance between the good comments I'd received and these online not so good ones. But others who read the online comments (and didn't know about what I'd received personally) took issue and were mad/disappointed for me. It did make me realize that there may be a different motivation for those who comment online, and those who comment via other means. I do think the online folks are a bit more blatant in their need for attention. Does that make sense? I guess it's a bit of a bummer that those online comments have a longer shelf life ...sigh.

  16. I so hear you on this one! And the thing is, as writers we not only have to have hard shells to take all the rejection, but we also have to be vulnerable in order to write realistic characters with authentic emotions. It's almost impossible to be both.

    Oh, and as for the Twitter spam? I got one just this afternoon. So annoying! And so tempting at the same time. Gah! Some of the blog spam I get plays on those same insecurities. Even though I know they're far-off people spamming everyone with the same message, those messages still get to me if I'm feeling particularly low already.

  17. People referencing your blog negatively? Those people have got to suck anyway. I'm sure people have hated on my blog what with all my atheist posts and politically charged stuff that I sometimes say. But I don't care. They can hate on me. I recently got a one-star review on Amazon because a dude said he hated spirituality in his science-fiction and it made it boring. What a tool. You're awesome E.J.!

  18. You know what's brilliant? This: "Vulnerability makes for good writing. Thick skin helps you survive until you find it." Your words are honest and true, and I can totally relate.

  19. Sometimes it can be really easy to go for the negative, the easy shot. It's much, much harder to let it slide.

    Oh, and armadillos are even cuter then puppies.

  20. I found and followed your Google+ link! Thanks.

    Whaaat? Others have referenced your blog in a negative way? That's bad/sad. Boo. Love the armadillo--may we all be writers with that thick of skin. (But inside we are soft and gooshy and vulnerable.)


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