Dark Days

All writers have dark days.  Whether they’ve sold lots of novels or only a few, there are days when they wonder if they’ll have enough money to pay their taxes in the next year, if they’ll have to sell their house or car, and move into an apartment.  Hell, sometimes writers are afraid of becoming homeless.  If they have families, how will they feed them?  If they have mortgages or medical bills, how will they pay them.  And not just new writers but even established writers have dark days.

Someone else’s novel does better than yours.  You hear about playwrights who are geniuses, or songwriters who never write a bad song and you wonder if anybody’s ever going to know who you are, let alone remember you.

Anybody and almost everybody in the entertainment industry feels this way.  Why?  Because we are all at the mercy of the public.  And we’re not just at the mercy of critics (wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could throw a critic off of a tall building like the critic one Tom Hanks’ characters does in  the film “Cloud Atlas”?) but we’re also at the mercy of our audience–if we’re lucky enough to have.

It’s the public that judges us, that reads our stories, buys our books, goes to our plays, watches our films or TV shows, buys music, et cetera.  They are our biggest critics and if they’re not buying, you wonder why.  Is it the economy?  Is your work already out of date?  Are you too politically correct or too politically incorrect?  Are your stories too weak?  Are you characters too weak?  Worst of all, is the public tired of your writing?  Do they even know you exist?  Do they even care?

All of those questions become realities and affect your happiness, your self worth, your confidence.  And how can it not?  It takes courage to put yourself out there for the world’s judgement.

And it takes honesty, too.  Why?  Because if your ego is so huge that when you fail, you blame it on others instead of learning from your mistakes, then you will never succeed.

I’ve had a lot of dark days this year.  I continue to work hard at trying to tell a good story, while atthe same time trying to write good characters, at spending hours and hours and hours trying to create interesting dialogue, dialogue that reveals my characters while keeping the plot moving forward.

It’s nice, and rare, when a reader says, “I loved reading your novel.”  When you correspond with the reader and ask why and the reader says, “It was easy to read and the characters came  so well through the dialogue.”  Those comments are rare indeed.  Much better than “It was like it was real.”  Which is reader shorthand for “I never finished your story.  In fact, I never tried it.  I didn’t want to be disappointed.”

So why do I have so many dark days?  I don’t know, really.  I’m trying to create a good product.  But sales are slow.  Even so, I keep writing, trying to get yet another novel out there so someone else might read it and enjoy it and recommend it to someone else.

When you’re a writer, you have to have hope.  Hope doesn’t always work when you’ve had a dark day or two, maybe a dark week or two, or like me an unhappy summer filled with dark days wondering what I’m doing wrong, where did all the readers go?

It’s doubly bad for me because I’m also an explorer.  I need to get out and do new things and see different sights.  Which is good for a writer like me, who wants to know how the next story is going to turn out.  And this year I haven’t done any exploring or adventuring.  And when I’m not out and about, seeing what’s over the next hill, then it shows up in my work.  I need to experience new adventures to write new adventures.

So sad, my bad.

But I’m just warning you that the reason writing can lead to drug addiction or alcoholism is because of the terror it springs upon your psyche.  So, know there are others out there, trying to see and experience similar feelings to yours.

Like me.

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