This is a true story. It’s also completely fresh so I hope you enjoy it.
As an endeavoring writer, I have like-minded talented friends. One of these friendships has truly bloomed from the craggy earth like a little cactus in a crack between rocks. Its growth had bumps and hitches along the way, but I feel like we’re in a better zone now because as I continue the plant analogy, the first friendship plant died but not before a bird picked up its seed and pooped it on a sunnier spot.
This friend is far beyond me in the online writing circles. She has shown me a couple really great blogs and has helped me reach more people by linking to my blog on her facebook page or her own blog. Truly selfless acts from a person who’s also writing her own book.
One of these recommended blogs is written by a woman named Kristen Lamb who is a published author and an expert on helping writers use electronic media to get their names and work out there. (Ahhh… I just had a light bulb turn on . . . perhaps I was baited. But I think not. More in a second.)
I’ve been sick recently. I’m on prednisone and antibiotics for a nasty ear infection. I also had been taking NyQuil to help me sleep due to the pain from the pressure of the ear infection. I hear prednisone can make you insane. This is important information.
Kristen’s post was about the benefits of failure. It was a strong piece which detailed the hurdles Kristen has jumped to get where she is. And it reminded us that even when you think you’ve finally arrived, there’s always something else to learn. The writer’s mind never stops thinking of the next great scene or twist.
Many of the posted comments were brief expressions of gratitude for the lessons or were similar tales of failure and triumph. Most were short comments, but one stood out. It was one of the saddest comments I’d read ever on her blog. (I’d just subscribed to it yesterday, so, um I wasn’t exactly a veteran.) The writer sounded truly downtrodden. She considered giving up her writing to go back to her job in a coffee shop because she felt like a failure and that she’d earned only 2 star reviews on her work and the comments were like poison to her. She used the word “humiliation” and I hate that word. It connotes something to be ashamed of. To me it means your face is already so far in the dirt that it’s hard to see out of it, hard to see a lesson or a good thing from the adversity. It was a sad comment.
I was moved. I have a big heart, believe it or not. So I decided to comment to her comment, which had to be moderated. I didn’t know this person at all. I had no idea of what she’d written, but I planned to look into that after I posted my comments. I said this, “I read somewhere that Dr. Seuss was rejected 78 times before he was published. I saw that you used “humiliating” and I want you to know I’m proud of you. I don’t know you. I’ll look for what you’ve written in a moment, but I’m proud of you for writing and publishing and putting yourself out there. Instead of “humiliating” I propose: “humbling.” They sound the same but they mean different things. You have NOTHING to be ashamed of. If you robbed a bank and stole a baby too, that would be shameful. Writing a book and people criticize it? No. People are turds sometimes. This can be a humbling experience where you learn from it. You impress me. The world can be a cold place and the anonymity of the Internet makes it even colder and harsher. You started a book and you published it. That’s more than MANY people (me) have ever done. Stay focused and stay on it. I know this might sound random, but I felt like I was supposed to tell you all this. You are good. Don’t give up. Best wishes and keep swinging.”
Then I cruised over to Amazon and checked out her stuff.
She has written many books; at least a dozen. And many of her books have 4-star ratings. Their artwork is very realistic and the people on the covers of her books are anatomically correct although the images are shady and highlighted by some sort of shimmer effect on the various parts and obscured by many hands and long hair.
Were these people unwell? Did they have fevers? Were the stories about exhausted but loving tribal people in the south who lived in primitive times? No electricity and air conditioning or light? And what about the lonely person in the distance behind the people who were closer to the artist?
One cover showed long-haired, open-shirted men. A healthy blonde woman who was very tired or emotionally drawn or had a migraine because the lighting was low was unable to look at the man behind her. But she was able to lean her weary body against the man’s rippled six-pack abs and bulging biceps for support. Thanks to the NyQuil, I was comforted to know these women were taken care of.
I can’t recall the names of the books, but the images are seared into my memory as if they were hot-iron branded on cattle. Denim and Lace? Could that be one of the titles? I vaguely recall another one about hard hats and leather. I don’t think the people in the stories have a lot of money. It looked like they borrowed clothes that didn’t fit them or they simply couldn’t buy any to wear.
Apparently the construction workers in her books work out A LOT. They are clean shaven and get some time in the sun too. They care about their health because they look nothing like the some of the 5-o’clock shadowed construction workers I’ve seen who are in need of a shower and who are missing a beer to rest upon their six-pack-made abs.
I read her bio, and in her “about me” she told us her “likes.” She used an acronym I did know, NASCAR, and another one I had to think about: BDSM. I thought, is that a recent IPO? A new rock band or an airline? Maybe it’s the NYSE ticker for a company. . . Remember: I was on NyQuil and it was 11 pm. And then I recalled a Maury Povich show I watched during a percocet-induced haze after my knee surgery. Maury’s guests were in the entertainment industry, they were dominatrixes and it all came flooding back: BDSM = Bondage Domination Sado Masichism.
You know how they say your life flashes before you when you think you’re going to die? My heart rate went from a casual 70bpm to probably 160bpm in sight of 20 seconds. I felt the surge of adrenaline like the kind that would fuel the rescue a child from a burning building. Get your mind out of the gutter. It wasn’t because of the cover art in the way you’d think it was from the cover art.
I literally freaked. I had these visions of my full name being linked to this person’s comments and I saw everything I cared about being taken away in some John Huston-esque movie scene. Boxes labeled “my ambitions” and “work in progress” and “Next Great American Novel” were carried out by men like the ones on the cover art. My children were being tended to by the tired and overheated women on the covers. I read and re-read my comments. I realized I had said nothing wrong, but that “keep swinging” line in my comments to her pretty much threw me over the edge.
One day soon, I’d like to maybe get a part-time job writing for someone or a full-time job that allows me to do that from home and I’m actively engaged in conversations to make that happen. The internet is a crazy place and I’d just read a SmartMoney article about how recent Facebook “unfriending” has been on the rise and one of the reasons cited was because of associations with people or activities that might be deleterious to professional advancement. Turns out there are a few articles about Facebook unfriending being on the rise.
I wrote a follow-up to my comment which was blessedly still awaiting moderation to Kristen saying (remember, NyQuil and prednisone),
“KRISTEN — PLEASE DON’T POST MY COMMENT ABOVE.
_____ – i just checked out your writing and while it’s not my cup of tea in the least, i hope you find success for yourself and your craft.”
I contacted my friend who told me about the blog. She was a little hard to reach, being all writerly and whatnot, and when she found me waiting, panting at her online door to “C’MON!!” she tried to calmly talk me down. And as the experience wore on, I realized the humor of the situation. We laughed “LOL!” online together many times about how my comments were harmless but that the blog commenter’s writing essentially seemed like lit-porn and my “keep swinging” remark . . .
Nonetheless, I didn’t want my entire name attached to the comments because even though I stand by what I wanted to say, I was a little . . . no, a lot concerned that I’d be linked to this person, no matter how obvious and how innocuous my comments. I felt so Mary Tyler Moore’s Mary Richards-ish . . . so naive, so embarrassed. I realize now that Mary Tyler Moore wouldna never made her cover art. I’m OK with that.
So Kristen kindly contacted me today about my comment, saying there was nothing wrong with it but asked me if I wanted to delete it. I replied to her with an unsolicited mea culpa and a little more to boot about my motives (carefully omitting the NyQuil, but that didn’t occur to me because it had worn off). And oh, just one more thing, a suggestion that if she chose to keep my comments, that she rename me to “Moxie” or something else like that because I felt the writer needed to hear that someone cares . . . just someone with clothes on.
Kristen didn’t publish my comments, but she did comment to the BDSM writer with compassion and encouraged her to keep at it (she didn’t borrow my “keep swinging” line). I am glad she did comment to her though because bait or not, if BDSM didn’t feel the way she said she did at the time she commented, I’ve no doubt she’d felt that way at least once as we all have wanted to crawl into a hole and give up.
I told my mom about the story and she howled with laughter as I knew she would. She said sheepishly, “You know Mol, that genre is very popular and very lucrative . . . ” and I said, “I KNOW! But No.” And we laughed.
I’m so glad today is my last day of taking the prednisone.