Any time you send a book – or even an article – into the world, you subject yourself to both praise and criticism. Sometimes praise seems embarrassing but criticism can hurt. By criticism, I’m not referring to the helpful, constructive kind. I’m talking about the mean kind.
When someone says something hostile, consider that it’s not about you. That person is expressing what matters to her. The subject of the remark will reflect what the person is worried about, or jealous of.
Does the comment diminish your accomplishment in some way? Perhaps the person disparages the type of book you write, or your publisher, or the fact it’s self-published. If your success makes someone feel dreadful, it’s not your fault. That person’s feeling the rise of jealousy because of his own regrets and missteps. Most people would love to have all the benefits of being an author (or name any profession) without doing the work. Once someone reveals this proclivity, write him off as someone you should avoid sharing your good news with.
Perhaps the person makes a scathing remark, and then slaps you by saying she’s just being honest. If she doesn’t find anything good to say, and especially if this person seems rarely to be on your side, this “honesty” is meanness, and she’s blocking any defense or she’ll upbraid you for not being able to deal with an “honest” comment. This is a ploy of the toxic person.
Maya Angelou is quoted as saying, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
It’s painful to realize that someone who you thought was, or should be, on your team, rooting for you to be successful, isn’t. This can be anyone from a family member, pastor, or a “friend” who enjoys your misery but doesn’t rejoice in your success. Don’t keep going back to the well, looking for them to change their minds and start supporting you. Don’t make even a small part of why you are writing all about “showing” them. You never will.
Instead, limit the time you spend with naysayers as much as you can.
Gravitate to people who genuinely support you. They’re there, wanting to hear all about your celebrations. Relish spending time with your team. They are the people who matter.
What is your favorite way to celebrate publishing success?
What is the best piece of advice or encouragement you’ve heard on your publishing journey?
Have you encountered jealous people? What did you do?
Great points, Tamela! Yes, knowing who is really part of the team is an interesting journey, and your quote from Maya Angelou worth remembering. My key supporters have cheered me on, through tears and trials and those long times feeling like I’m living in limbo-land. They’re the ones most excited when good news happens, the ones whose belief in me when I didn’t believe in myself which has made such a difference. Best piece of advice? Don’t give up.
This resonated with me: Instead, limit the time you spend with naysayers as much as you can. Gravitate to people who genuinely support you.
I’m not published yet, but I have a close group of supporters who know I write and continue to support me along this journey. Thanks for this post!
Wise advice, Sally!
Great advice, Tamela. My sainted grandmother always admonished us to consider the source when listening to advice or criticism.
Before I was published, the praying husband of a good friend kept my writing lifted in prayer. He went home before he read a word of my writing, but he is in the dedication of my gift book. His widow got one of the first copies with my gratitude. He was a large part of that small victory.
Prayer support is vital.
I’ve gotten so much great advice. It’s hard to boil it down to the “best.” But certainly one of the best insights comes from Brennan Manning, by way of my friend, Frank Viola. Manning once told him, “If you write something and it doesn’t move you, then throw it in the trash. It’s not going to move anyone else.”
I’ve learned most of this the hard way. One of the most painful times occurred from a person I thought was a friend who made a particularly nasty comment about my writing in front of several other people. It’s hard to get over something like that, but as you’ve said in your article–I must learn to recognize toxic people for who they are and simply distance myself. Then I remember who IS in my corner–cheering for me, praying for me, encouraging me. My prayer team, my writing partners, my agent :-), and a host of readers I’ve never met face to face. Most importantly, the One I talk to every morning before I open my manuscript to begin working–He is the One I most want to please, and He is the One who whispers “well done” to my soul.
Wise words, Tamela. My mother used to say, “You can’t put your arms around Cain.” If we believe we are writing to glorify God, we cannot be bound by appreciation from people. God will use our words in the minds of the ones He intends to read them.
True of any kingdom work. If we work for strokes and not fulfillment, our way will be rough, indeed.
Tamela, this is such an encouraging post. It’s fairly easy to ignore what some people say, but it’s a stab in the side when someone who’s important in your life says hurtful things from jealousy. I’ve found one reliably effective way to deal with it.
I pray for them. It works just as well for any situation where a person has said or done something to hurt me, for whatever reason.
Then I try to forgive them. A cutting remark about my writing isn’t a very big offense. It’s like a paper cut ― hurts pretty bad for a moment but a little Neosporin under a Bandaid overnight and it’s mostly gone in the morning. Forgiving such things comes quickly. There are really big hurts, deliberately inflicted, in other areas of life where someone stabs you, twists the knife, and leaves you bleeding.
Even then, praying for them and asking God to help you forgive will get you past it. And maybe next time they come at you with a knife, you’ll already have the body armor that deflects the blade without any harm.
Tamela, I agree with you in most cases, but I had a “friend” who found fault with everything I wrote, refused to finish reading a book I gave her because “it was boring”, yet others loved it, and, if I won an award, the contest was “biased” or “crooked”. My husband asked why I continued to befriend her. If her actions had discouraged me, I would have steered clear, but I saw them as they were, jealousy that she hadn’t accomplished the same. I ignored her comments and kept bragging on what she wrote. with gentle criticism. Now she is my true friend and compliments me on my writings. I think there are times when we must turn aside, but sometimes a person just needs a true friend and encouragement. Her writing has improved greatly.
The most encouraging comment I have had was in the very beginning of my writing career. A workshop leader told me I definitely had talent. I drove home from that wrokshop on wings of ecstacy.
My favorite way to celebrate publishing success is to weep tears, praise God and get busy writing something else.
One night at a church dinner, the pastor asked about my writing. I told him a little about where I was. A dear friend leaned over to me and laughed. She said, “Christian fiction? What’s that about anyway?” And she went on to joke about Christian fiction.
We’re still friends, but her words bounce around in my head sometimes and I have to guard my heart from the hurt.
I’m really grateful that I haven’t had any negative feedback yet. I’m not quite sure how that’s possible, but I’m constantly bracing myself for the time when negative feedback is a reality. I’m thankful for the community of people around me who are excited to support my success.
This was a warm blanket. Thanks to Tamela (is that ok to call you by your first name?) and to the others who responded.
My stinging spot – I did “pay to publish” and have silently received the criticism from the writing community.
My celebration – I also cried and thanked God.
My encouragement – my brother-in-law called in tears and said the passage from Breathe comforted him in his parents’ death. They had died 6 weeks apart. He is a big supporter and I have several friends who pray for me also.
Thank you for this post.
Perhaps the greatest takeaway from this post and comments is that we need to be careful of our own words. Especially words spoken to those we truly care about. James 3:8 warns, “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Since I am active with 3 different writing critique groups, I have learned how to weigh criticism of my work. I look for the golden nuggets that help to improve my writing and agree to disagree with those that don’t.
When I’ve been approved for publication, I immediately share the good news with my writer friends on Facebook and at our meetings. I couldn’t do it without their help and moral support. I am truly blessed by them.
My way of encouraging my fellow writers, either though interviews, critiques or emails is to end by saying… Keep on writing.
What you shared blessed my heart tremendously, Tamara!
Tamela, great post! My favorite way to celebrate success in publishing, and everything else in my life, is to give credit and thankful prayer to the source of my success, my Father, Jesus Christ.
For advice and encouragement I never forget this. As true Christians we have immense power. Dealing with criticism, hatred, greed, jealousy, bigotry, hypocrisy and much more can become second nature and roll right off our armor. Iron will sharpen iron. No weapon formed against us will prosper. Evil has attempted to keep me in chains since before my birth. I imagine that this is how it has been for a number of us in one way or another. We shall overcome.
Of course I have encountered jealous people and far worse, so many I can’t count or remember them all. Adversity, disappointment, failure, although sometimes quite painful, has become my ally. While failing to kill me it strengthened me. It is a vehicle that I learned to adeptly pilot to new heights. I have walked, sometimes been carried, through the valley of death. Grace and Faith has always sustained and NEVER failed me. Conversely, I have received many great gifts and true miracles. We all are marching to our destiny, some have been appointed to assist others on their journey. Publishing has played a vital part beginning with an author, so has music, painting and many other pursuits. A spiritual battle rages around us, to the death, for our souls. This IS serious business.
Linda Riggs Mayfield
Wise words, as usual! In the college in which I worked 19 years, affirmation for anyone who got published was public and positive: each occurrence was posted in a wall-hung glass case in the main hallway. My battle was that I taught strategic learning in a college of nursing. I’m not a nurse: I have BSEd, MA, and EdD degrees in aspects of education. Some nursing faculty with PhDs did the polite equivalent of patting me on the head and sending me on my way because they didn’t view education journals and Christian magazines in which I was published to be as scholarly as nursing journals, a Christian university to be as rigorous as their state university, or an Ed.D. to be as prestigious as a Ph.D. It hurt a little sometimes, but mostly I thought that attitude was petty, uninformed, and a bit pathetic–even funny. My goal is to write to please God, not men (or women ;-D), and rejoice with those who rejoice.
Tamela Hancock Murray
I was at a conference when this posted and I was unable to respond. Thank you all so much for the warmth, wisdom, and kindness shared in your comments!
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