Writing can be a lonely venture. One that requires you to sit in front of a computer day in and day out, alone with your thoughts. Thoughts that, if you’re like me, aren’t always that kind to you. Thoughts that, if you let them, can quickly spiral. In the past, I’ve talked a little bit about my publishing related anxiety on here, in long form, but what I haven’t really delved into is how I’ve been struggling with both the big A (Anxiety) and the big D (Depression-get your mind out of the gutter) for … basically as long as I can remember. So those thoughts can really uncomfortable and pretty… not great (understatement) if I let them.
Which is why, I suppose, I, like so many other writers, found my way onto places like Twitter, places that can give a sense of “community” even though the community is full of individuals you’ve probably never met in real life or conversed with outside of direct messages. And, Twitter is weird. A few months ago, when I was really active (too active) on it, I used to wake up in the morning and imagine that Twitter was some sort of sentient being that was reaching over into the back of my head and connecting directly into me. It honestly felt different than other social media; even back in the heyday of MySpace, when I used it fairly regularly, that feeling was never there. The feeling was new, and it was sort of scary.
But let me back up. The last month in my life, publishing-wise, has been rough. And it’s made me think a lot about not only writing/publishing at large, but more specifically how being Too Online and entering into strange, internet-only friendships with people who you’ve never interacted with in real life or had a long form conversation with can be incredibly unhealthy if you let it be. They definitely have their place, and sometimes (rarely, I think) can translate to in-real-life that work beautifully, but most of the time they seem to be best handled with a yard stick. It’s hard for me to admit that, because, as I said above, the publishing process can feel really isolating. You write alone, you spend years writing this Thing, and then you finally-at long last-sell it and it’s SO EXCITING. And then comes the post-sale crash. You think, shouldn’t something else be happening right now!? How can I keep this high going!? So you look for other people in similar spots to bond with, to chat with, to share with, but again, you’ve never had actual, in real life conversations with them. There’s no nuance. There’s no body language. There’s no shared histories. There are just words on a page (and in the case of Twitter, a very small amount of words) and a looooot of room for misinterpretation.
And the thing with me, which I think is sort of symptomatic of both anxiety and depression, is that when there’s misinterpretation, not only does it really hit me in the gut, but I also start second guessing myself. Am I a bad person!?!? Should I stop writing? Is my voice worth anything? (I finally came to my senses and decided the answers to those questions are no, no, and yes, respectively.)
So here’s the thing: as an author, you’re going to hear a lot of voices. A lot of opinions, many of which will conflict. One person might disagree with what you’ve written, and the next might find nothing wrong with it. One person might hate your main character, and the next might love them. That’s the anxious part of putting a book into this world, right? Twitter comments, reviews on Goodreads, the ability people have these days to put their opinions into the view of authors. All you can do is follow your gut. And ignore the noise; block Goodreads if you need to; take time away from Twitter when it’s better for your brain.
Remember that having a book in the world is all well and good, but there are so many other things out there in life that matter, and don’t neglect them. Balance is key.