I’ve been thinking lately about why it is I have not written fiction in so long. Let me back up. A year ago, I re-entered grad school and the critical writing I did took over the time I had for writing fiction. Then my novel was released and the work I did to promote it took over the time I had for writing fiction. Add on top of this mother, etc, and there was little time left over.

But then I finished my thesis and graduated and my book promotion ended and still I did not write. I tried. I wrote a few small things, but the thought of attaching myself to anything larger was overwhelming. I was out of the habit. I read, though. I never stopped doing that. But writing became something scary. In fact, I felt as though I might be acquiring a new phobia but this time of something I love: writing. So now I’m forcing myself to write every day while at the same time trying to unpack what has been stopping me from writing.

Right now I am reading A Moveable Feast, which is an unintentionally interesting time to read it given that there have been a spattering of perceived writer-on-writer nastinesses going on of late. In this book, Hemingway was both loving toward his fellow writers and utterly bitchy toward them (at his worst, he is horribly judgmental about their lifestyles and sexual lives). Mostly the latter and shockingly so, reminding me why I don’t like to read about writers’ lives.

At its best, A Moveable Feast inspires the writer in me when he speaks of his process and of how wonderful it feels when he is in the groove of his writing. Reading that has made me long for that feeling again.

But what is it that hurt me so to get me to this place of resistance to writing? Was it mental exhaustion after a taxing eight months? Or was it something more?

It was something more. And I know what it was. And I’m ashamed of what it was.

When Echolocation came out, I had steeled myself for negative reviews. I fully believed they would come because nothing in my life has ever come easily and I am used to the struggle. Instead, readers were incredibly generous in their feelings toward the books. Yes, there were some who felt the ending might have been different, but mostly they offered me praise. I was surprised and grateful that people felt about the book the way my editor, agent, and I felt about it. I was delighted.

But then something happened that left me unhinged. On May 12, a woman posted a one star on review on Goodreads and dismissed my work with but a few sentences of her own.

I did not react to her. I did not say anything. I made a joke about it on Facebook. I said that it showed that I had arrived. I really wanted to rise above this connection of words but over time I found I could not.

I visited her words almost every day until I let them live in me. I studied her face. She’s smiling but she looks mean. I examined the books she’s reviewed (noting that she’s one-starred the work of many writers I admire). The rational part of me said to let it go. She would never like what I am about and that is okay. But the child in me–the people pleaser–felt that I had failed and that her words validated every horrible thing I had ever thought of myself.

This reviewer was the exemplar of all that I expected. She was nastiness in the face of all of the love my book had received. She was the ugly voice inside my head that says you can’t really do this and you shouldn’t even try. The voice that says you are no one and never will be. The voice that says give up. The voice that says I don’t want to hear you.

She was that voice come to life. Before reading her words, I hadn’t know that that voice really did live in human form.

But now she has served her purpose and I am letting her go. I have learned from her. I have learned how to face this voice and not let it break me.

Now, right now, I’m pouring water on her and she is melting away.

I am here using my own voice and I am writing.

You cannot stop me.

I am the only one who can stop me.

I will not stop.

15 Comments on “I Will Not Stop

  1. It’s amazing how one negative voice can somehow manage to cancel out all the positive, how it can loom so big compared to all the good things that should be able to push it away.

    But please don’t ever stop writing. I, for one, am really looking forward to what you publish next.

    • It is truly amazing, Michelle. I read once that we are wired to remember the negative/painful more than the positive/happy because that is how our bodies learn (e.g., touching a hot stove, learn that you can be burned, etc).

      I will never stop writing so long as the brain still works in my head. Thank you for the encouragement. 🙂

  2. Beautiful posting. We cannot make everyone happy. So you are having a healthy response. I see on Amazon that EVERYONE gave you five stars. I am going to order Echolocations right now!

    • Thank you so much, William! Absolutely agree that you can’t make everyone happy. It would be impossible to do so. Thanks so much.

  3. Letting go is one of the hardest things to do, but also the most freeing. So glad you are melting that negativity away. Do not stop.

  4. You know, the way you’re looking at this now, at the end, is liberating. We’re all full of those voices. Outside the deliberate, mean-spirited hurting, there’s something magical about having an outside entity to assign those deeply interior voices to, to blame for self-doubt, and then wash away.

    • Beautifully put, Victoria. You’re right, it is liberating. I have been feeling myself open back up over the past week and it is such a relief.

  5. In the last three years, two women did something similar things to me, although it had nothing to do with a published book.(When my mushroom book comes, I hope reviews will be positive, but I’ll remember this post of yours!). It’s taken me a very long time to feel like what I am doing has much worth. Thank you for sharing your experience. BTW, if you look at the Goodreads reviews by that woman to whom you referred, she gives just about everybody a star or two, along with a big helping of foul-smelling words.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that, Cynthia. It’s unfortunate that some people feel so compelled to dump upon others. I hope you have turned the corner away from their negativity.

  6. What a moving post, Myf. I am hoping to read your book soon. Everything I’ve heard so far plus your writing makes me looking forward to it. There is always someone there to echo our insecurities, and for some reason, their voices sounds louder than all the others. But hey, you wrote a book and published it and made many readers happy. So to hell with that. As for writing, I went through the same thing in the past year while studying. In July-after three or four weeks I broke through it, but now I’m back to my project… It takes time for the head to readjust itself, but it does that…And there’s where my hope rests too.

    • Thank you, Avital! So wonderfully put. Yes, there is ALWAYS (sadly) someone to echo our insecurities. The trick is to not continue to hear them, right? xoxo

  7. This made me cry. Your writing is profoundly gorgeous, and anyone who can’t see that is not worth a second of your time.

    But oh–I do understand that hurt! It’s why I try to stay away from Goodreads. There’s something evil about that place. It seems to attract cliques of “authors” who not only go around giving each other 5-star reviews, but giving other authors 1-star reviews. It’s ugly and mean.

    Sending love and strength to one of my favorite people and favorite writers! xoxo

  8. We’ve been on similar paths…back to school, not writing, but like you I’ve decided that not writing was a kind of death and I was going to choose life. Thanks for sharing. It reaffirms what I feel as well.

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