My good friend Amy is not only a fellow blogger and a wonderful person… she is also a published author! Her recently-released novel Lower Education (purchase links below) deals heavily with same-sex relationships, as well as other controversial topics. I asked her to discuss a rather sore topic: what about those who don’t like what you’re writing? Amy graciously shared her feelings in my first ever guest post. Thank you, Amy!
Does the question, “What if they stop liking me?” ever get any easier to answer? I’ve reached an age where I think I ought to stop asking that, yet somehow, it still niggles.
I write novels. Specifically, I write fiction with gay-themed romantic overtones. There’s a lot not to like about that, actually. We can start with all my conservative Christian friends who think I’m skating on the edge of hell and continue with anyone who believes female-identified persons should not write about gay or bisexual men.
On a daily basis, I worry. My novel Lower Education came out November 1, and I have spent countless hours stressing over the hate mail I think I might receive. In truth, my real fear isn’t that people will hate me—it’s that I might deserve it.
My own self-loathing leads me to accept others’ negative view of me as absolute truth. It’s hard to let go of the fear that at the core of my being, I am an unworthy soul. Maybe this is a condition of fundamentalist thinking; maybe it’s just a struggle all creative people have. Throw in a healthy dose of being a particularly sensitive person who fears hurting others—even inadvertently—and you have a recipe for emotional nuclear disaster.
There’s no doubt that people will hate what I write and not just because they think I’m a hack. It’s also true that some of it will be personal—I won’t live up to their expectations of me as a human being. The question is, what am I going to do about that?
Answer: absolutely nothing. There isn’t anything I can do. I can’t make them like me or like my work.
What I can do is stop justifying myself in my own head. I know why I write what I do, and I’m open to explaining it to anyone who cares to ask. Far more important is that I stop feeling guilty and ashamed in my own mind. I can choose to be proud of who I am and what I write, and I can refuse to give my power to hate—real or imagined.
And for those times when it’s overwhelming, when I feel the sting of hurtful words? That’s when I trust the people who love me to care for me and remind me that I am not defined by the cruel assessments. I don’t have to do this by myself, pulling up by my bootstraps and pretending it never gets to me.
We are not alone. It’s okay to want approval. First, let’s give it to ourselves and each other. Then we’ll take on the rest of the world together.
A. M. Leibowitz is a spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. She keeps warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing romantic plot twists and happy-for-now endings. In between noveling and editing, she blogs coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, and her family.
Find Amy on the Internet:
Web site: http://amleibowitz.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amyunchained (@amyunchained)