Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Guest Author Annie Laurie Cechini: The Terrible Addiction

By Annie Laurie Cechini, @AnnieLCechini

I'd like to welcome YA sci fi Annie Laurie Cechini to the blog today to chat with us about temptations and addictions writers face. And no, it's not the ones you're probably thinking of. I know I've been guilty of some of these, and it was hard to break the bad habits.

Annie is a connoisseur of every type of geekery. She signs books with a sonic screwdriver, owns a Tribble named Nimoy, and often threatens in all seriousness to name a child after a character from the Star Wars lexicon. Her first novel, LIBERTY, was released this week through Rhemalda Publishing. Annie also co-authored and produced CHRISTMAS WISHES, an anthology that benefits the family of murder victim Sam LaCara.

Take it away Annie...

It’s no secret that humans are addiction-prone. We seek out what we crave, what comforts us, whether it’s necessarily healthy or not. It takes a little bit (or a lot) of extra effort to proactively choose healthy things, and to step away from the substances or habits that get in our way.

Writers (also being mostly human) are not spared. However, there is an addiction unique to those in the arts as powerful and destructive as any drug. I am not referring here to any substance, but rather, to other human beings. What someone else thinks about our artistic offering can become more dear to us than the ring was to Sméagol (and that didn’t end very well now did it, Precious?).

And the temptations are everywhere for the modern author. Goodreads is one click away, with its verbose or abrupt reviews and shiny, shiny stars. Amazon is no better. Everywhere an author can find a way to get another hit off of human praise and adoration. Everywhere there lurks a potential ruined day:
Only four stars!? I worked for three years on this novel!

Maybe I am only a four star author. Maybe all my worst fears are being realized AND I TRULY, IRREVOCABLY SUCK.

My career is over! Time to hide in a nest of blankets and never come out again.
Which makes the next hit of human adulation that much more important, potent, and intoxicating.

The addictive cycle can go on and on, and it will do more than run your emotions ragged. I was only 19 when I met Jenny (name changed), but she left a lasting impression. She had achieved success in an artistic field, and had experienced a lifestyle I had only dreamt of. She knew people I had placed on an unattainable Pedestal of Awesome. She had the best stories.

And Jenny drove me crazy.

She was constantly seeking the spotlight, the applause, the next hit of human acceptance. It ate away at her, drove her choices, and ultimately ruled her life.

So, fellow scribblers, how do we work successfully when we’re swimming in temptation?

1. Identify the real need, and find healthy ways to meet it
The real need for authors often seems to be appreciation and validation. We really just want someone, anyone, to tell us: Yes! Sacrificing five (or ten, or twenty) years of your life to tell this story WAS worth it! The hard reality is that few of us will really understand the impact our work has made while we are alive (I don’t know about you but I fully intend to haunt libraries and watch the expressions on my readers’ faces. Yes. I know. I’m a writer, I’m supposed to be a teensy bit creepy, okay?). So where can we find that acceptance and validation outside of reviews and readers? Family. Friends. If you don’t have some, get some. Online, IRL, anywhere. Good ones who will support and love and help you. If you believe in a higher power, enlist His/Her/Their/Its help. Remember, you are not your career. Your worth is intrinsic. Figure out what it is you really need, and find a healthy way to meet the need.

2. Remember why you write
Are you writing for the adulation? To be adored by fans for all eternity? Perhaps some therapy would be wise before you query that novel (I’m not being flippant, either). For all the reasons why, see #1. Write because you love to tell stories to people, to help them think or to escape the pain of being a human for a few minutes. Don’t write so the major networks will fall all over themselves trying to get an interview with you. And when you are tempted to inhale the success you may achieve, remember and hold on to the real reason you tell stories. When I get discouraged, I make myself go back in time in my head. I remember a sad little girl who wanted to be not-bored SO BAD. And if I think my story could have made my high school self happy for an afternoon, well that’s pretty miraculous (just ask my parents) (on second thought? Don’t).

3. Hire (or bribe) a guardian
The truth is, sometimes we need to know what is being said about our work for one reason or another. Have a guardian who is blunt, trustworthy, and totally unwilling to give in to begging, pleading, whining, flailing, or desperate attempts at bribery. Reviews will not make you a better writer. Not knowing what reviews say will not make you a worse writer. However, getting sucked into the most terrible addiction might destroy more than your writing moxie.

What say you, fellow writers? How do you fend off the temptation to inhale praise/criticism of your work?

About Liberty

A STOLEN VIAL
Eternigen is the miracle drug that allows humans to travel in deep space. Seventeen-year-old space captain Tabitha "Dix" Dixon has the only vial of Eternigen in existence.

A RELENTLESS ENEMY
Eira Ninge always gets what she wants. She wants the Eternigen, and she'll do anything-and kill anyone-to get it.

A DEADLY CURSE
Since Dix stole the vial, everyone she loves seems fated to die. When young resistance messenger Jordan Berrett steals her heart, she has to decide if it's worth risking his life to let him get close. When Dix is involved, even falling in love can turn deadly.

A CHANCE FOR FREEDOM
If Dix can get her hands on more Eternigen, she and her crew can escape the solar system, leaving her dark past behind. But getting the Eternigen won't be easy, and the bodies keep piling up. In the end, the cost of freedom may be too high.

7 comments:

  1. And here I thought the addiction you were going to talk about was TV Tropes. :)

    This is spot on. I'm not a published author yet, but I know from some other experiences that the things you do for acclaim are never satisfying. If you don't get the recognition you're upset, and if you do, all you get is a hollow `is that it?' feeling. Nobody can praise you enough because praise comes from the outside.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Exactly, Chicory. That's why it's such a dangerous thing. Good luck with your stories!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow. Kinda spooked at how spot on this is. I'm struggling with this right now as I attempt to market myself (go ahead, visit my blog, you know you wanna). We just want people to like us, like our work -- but that's not why we write, right? Right.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Forwarded your blog to my crit group. I hope it's advice we will all need.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lauren - Right. :)
    Writer Chick - Me too!
    2unpublishedgirls - You're welks. :)

    Also, I ran across this article today that refers to the internet as "electronic cocaine." Interesting...

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/07/08/is-the-internet-making-us-crazy-what-the-new-research-says.html

    ReplyDelete
  6. Annie, thanks so much for this (ahem, timely) post. Been querying and that's the time when this really kicks in, for me. I find myself hanging on to every scrap of encouragement and going half crazy when none comes in. Trying to get better at that! And I love your coping advice, here. The friends and family bit is what helps me. Also helpful? Distractions. HUGE distractions. As in, doing something else I love a lot...like hmm, writing a new novel.

    Cough.

    Why are the obvious things the ones we forget?

    Great post!
    -Mandy

    ReplyDelete