Early Monday morning, I snuggle into my writing chair, a cup of coffee nearby, and open my laptop. As soon as I log on, I engage in a morning routine that awakens my brain and motivates me to write something clever, sexy and adventurous. I ignore the news headlines and head over to Goodreads to see how many ratings and reviews my books received over the weekend.
The numbers are inching up. Good news. I click on one of my books and see that the most recent rating is four stars. Why not five? I click on that reader’s profile and am delighted to see that she gave one of my fellow authors—a book I also read and liked—four stars, so I no longer feel inadequate.
I benchmark this reader by peeking at her all-time favorite books. Both the Better Homes and Garden and Betty Crocker cookbooks are listed on her shelf. Curious choices. At first, I question her taste, then I admit that those two cookbooks are on my kitchen bookshelves. We have something in common. She reads cookbooks and my legal drama with lesbian romance. I like her! In fact, in my latest book, Standby Counsel, Monica Spade spends serious and playful time in the kitchen with her girlfriend, Shelby, making warm, hearty meals in the dead of winter. I make a mental note to continue kitchen scenes for this reader. If you ask me, some of the most important conversations in our lives have taken place in the kitchen. My gut tells me this is going to be a creative writing day.
I click on another Goodreads reader who gave one of my books five stars. I’m on a roll. I see this reader has saved two of my books in her all-time favorite bookshelf. While immediately flattered, I manage to squelch that fleeting emotion with the thought that this reader cannot be very sophisticated in her literary tastes if she has listed my books among her favorites. Why do I put myself—and the reader—down like this? I reframe her selection as wise while admitting that my writing insecurity is looming larger than ever on this Monday morning.
I click on another of my books and see that a reader gave a one-star rating with a bizarre, spiteful review. I immediately click on this reader’s profile. She has given other books one-star reviews, too. At least I’m in good company. This is her gig. I wish I could plaster that as a headline across my Goodreads page—”Spiteful Sally gives everyone a one-star review!” While her comments are rubbish, I cannot completely ignore them. They take up too much space in my mind and heart. Maybe this won’t be such a great writing day after all.
Then, I remember Brené Brown’s sage advice about not listening to the critics in the cheap seats. If the one-star troll isn’t fighting alongside me in the arena, then her opinion shouldn’t matter. Brené’s advice makes me feel better for a few seconds, but the one-star review chips away at the plaster binding my confidence.
This is nonsense, I tell myself, as I take a drink of coffee and square my shoulders. One-star ratings happen to all of us—even to famous authors I admire. Some authors even post the one-star reviews on Instagram to shame Spiteful Sally. I’m not that brave. Nor do I want to give Spiteful Sally an amplified voice on my IG. I take solace in other authors’ approaches, though. I will overcome and make this a productive writing day. I turn up the volume to my favorite song on Pandora and shake off undeserved criticism.
I continue checking my writing statistics by clicking on my Author Dashboard in Goodreads. More readers are shelving my books. I feel immediately buoyed by this fact and ready to kick some ass in my writing this morning.
I leave the pea soup of Goodreads for Instagram and am warmed by the tiny hearts in reaction to a photo I posted of my husband holding my grandson. This has nothing to do with writing, but I gaze adoringly upon their image, my heart blossoming at the memory of holding him this weekend. My grandson, that is to say.
I scroll through the IG feed and see that Kristin Hannah has a new book coming out. She has propped the cover on her patio table next to a bottle of Absolut Vodka. I wonder if that’s how she celebrates the completion of a book. Should I be drinking more vodka? Unfortunately, I don’t have a taste for it. Her post has thousands of likes, so I make the mistake of doing a deep dive into her because I need to remind myself why we do this day after day—enter the worlds of our characters, chronicling their adventures and heartaches, toiling away on our laptops to the consternation of our family and friends.
I search for Ms. Hannah on Amazon to review her bestsellers, now licensed for motion pictures. I take a wider detour by googling Ms. Hannah, so I can see the backstory of the celebrity author. I make the inevitable comparison—she’s five years older than I am. She, too, went to law school but practiced for only a few years. She’s been writing for 30 years. Thirty years! I’ve been practicing law for 31 years while she’s been writing bestsellers. Where did I go wrong? I remind myself that I needed financial security and made a good salary while practicing law. I fall down the rabbit hole and google her net worth. Hmph. She made millions from the sale of one book. She’s beautiful, smart, a famously good writer and rich. Well, that’s something. I wonder if she struggles with motivation on Mondays.
I swim back to the surface of the social media sea and notice that I have a notification from Twitter. Don’t do it! I say to myself. Do not go onto Twitter. You don’t understand it. The lingo is foreign, and the humor is cryptic and loaded with sarcasm. Nothing is as it seems. People can be mean on Twitter. Open your manuscript and pick up where you left off—Chapter 26, I think.
I click on my Twitter account and jump into a word salad. Political quips and insults. Celebrity humble-brags. Professional athletes’ smack talk. I’m not sure I understand the angles much less the vernacular, filled with abbreviations, acronyms and obscure references. I’m too scared to enter the fray, but I scroll down the feed, fascinated.
I stumble onto Sarah Cooper’s videos, especially her lip-syncing spoofs of Trump. I’m awestruck, a dumb smile plastered to my face. The woman is brilliant. She deserves success for her talent. Now, I’m more terrified than ever. My gut tells me this is going to be an intimidating writing day. Best to click out of Twitter before I post something trivial, banal and shallow.
Do I know what I’m doing? What can my legal-drama-lesbian-romance novels add to the world of literary entertainment? I’m not as creative or funny as Sarah Cooper. I’m not as creative as I thought I was.
I shake off my doubt-filled thoughts and return to safer ground, opening my email accounts. Good news. A reader has reached out through the contact page on my website. My heart beats faster as I click open the email, which turns out to be business-like and to the point. “When is the next book in The San Francisco Mystery Series coming out?” That’s it. No praise. No feedback. Just a straightforward request that’s akin to handing a plate to the chef and saying, “More.” I suppose I can take satisfaction in the notion that this reader liked the books enough to inquire about the next one in the series, but some of the shine comes off my sparkly world of dreaming up clever plot twists and snappy dialogue meant to entertain. My gut tells me this is going to be an average writing day, serving up another average meal for the hangry reader.
Thirty minutes after opening my laptop, I now return to Chapter 26 of my latest book—Standby Counsel, A Monica Spade Novel—and read the first paragraph. The corners of my lips turn up. I like this paragraph. I have no edits or revisions. I read on, and I’m drawn in by the world I have created. I know how my lead character feels, and I strive to summon powerful verbs and adjectives to describe her feelings, thoughts, challenges and triumphs. A few pages more, and my gut tells me this is going to be an awesome writing day! Happy Monday, fellow authors and friends who feel insecure sometimes!
And yes, Standby Counsel, A Monica Spade Novel, will be released soon…