Thursday, July 30

How to Drive Yourself Crazy as a Writer: Read Reviews

By Alex Hughes, @ahugheswriter

Part of the Indie Authors Series


Being a writer can make you crazy (or maybe that's a prerequisite to being a writer?), and never is that more apparent than in how reviews can make us feel. To celebrate the release of her new book, How to Drive Yourself Crazy As a Writer, Alex Hughes returns to the lecture hall today with a fun and helpful look on how (and why) reading reviews is a great way to make you lose your mind.

Alex, the author of the award-winning Mindspace Investigations series from Roc, has lived in the Atlanta area since the age of eight. Her short fiction has been published in several markets including EveryDay Fiction, Thunder on the Battlefield and White Cat Magazine. Her latest book, How to Drive Yourself Crazy As a Writer, is a humorous look at the things we writers can do to avoid being sane. She is an avid cook and foodie, a trivia buff, and a science geek, and loves to talk about neuroscience, the Food Network, and writing craft—but not necessarily all at the same time! For all the latest news and free short stories, join Alex’s email list.

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Take it away Alex...

"There is no force so infuriating--or unfair--as an honest review." -- Every Writer Ever

An essential part of every writer's life, I'm sure you agree, is to carefully monitor the impact of one's work on the world. Thus, reading reviews is not only necessary, but a noble and virtuous art, in which one gets essential feedback on the strength or weakness, the goodness or badness, of not only the work, but also yourself. After all, the work is you, and you are the work; how are you to create Good Art and know it without binding your very soul and self-worth into every stroke of the pen?

After all, we know that all readers read the same book in the same way from the same place, and that no one brings anything to the work with them except cold, dispassionate judgment and measurement of worth. Why, enjoyment of the work, or interest in its subject matter, or kindness, or personal taste, or Where the Reader Is At That Moment has nothing to do with the reader's reading! They are all automatons, blindfolded ladies of justice, measuring out the worth of the writer's soul with all of their might at any given moment. Any opinion of theirs must be universal and right; any one of them must necessarily stand for the whole of humanity in its aggregate.

A fortunate side effect of constantly monitoring the reviews of the world--as is right and good and necessary to the very execution of one's craft--is that this constant feeling of judgment and criticism may frequently impair one's ability to create new work. The pressure of a thousand opinions of Your Work and Yourself, forged in the fiery furnace of criticism on the internet, may so bind your soul and hobble your feet as to drastically increase the misery of your days. But lest you conclude that it may be easier--even conducive to mental health and enjoyment!--to dismiss and even actively ignore reviews both positive and negative, think on this: how are diamonds forged but by impossible pressure? How are oysters to form pearls without constant discomfort? How are you to create any Great Work without bleeding and sweating your misery into the very skies from which you found your calling?

Once again I caution you against the modern heresy of Quick and Quality Work. They may tempt you with the idea that happy writing is faster writing, and that faster writing may get you to arbitrary goals at some greater speed. Ah, the corrupt modern world! Always wanting things quickly! Better by far to pursue a properly crazy mindset, and to hope against hope that Great Work may one day arise out of it, as you stare out of your window in epic dejection, as far from pen and paper as the east is from the west.

Reviews are so much like this. The modern heretics claim you should not read them, nor respond to them, be they good or bad, but rather continue on in your work. As if you had anything useful to say outside of the fiery furnace of internet criticism! As if readers write reviews for any purpose other than directly confronting the author with the closest of heart-wrenching judgments. These ideas are poppycock, and very silly besides.

If you truly wish to develop the writing life of the miserably crazy, be certain to spend time each day reading your reviews. You may, of course, briefly allow a few moments to admire the positive ones. Perhaps deign to read a five star review and congratulate yourself on your cleverness. But the negative ones--ah, the negative!--these must be read over and over, until they are branded into your wrinkled forehead with wretchedness and sorrow. Do not scrimp on this exercise if you truly wish to develop ennui and horror of life as a writer; all the depressive moments in the world are not so well-served as these few moments of self-flagellation, which will drive all of your other efforts to ever-lower sorrows.

About How to Drive Yourself Crazy As a Writer

Lately I’ve been noticing a distressing excess of sanity in the creative and writing worlds. Why, new writers have even begun to challenge the Great Assertion that one must be poor and miserable to be any good! This Assertion, as you know, is the bedrock to creating meaningful Art.

Fear not. You are not at the mercy of the forces of Sanity and Productivity. For those distressed by the relentless forward drive of Efficiency, this book will provide a refreshing antidote.

Before you know it, through my simple and practical Assertions, you too will adopt the maddening and complex process that is True Writing, and embrace creative insanity as comfortably as a bat in a belfry!

How to Drive Yourself Crazy as a Writer
is the satirical how-to writing book you never knew you needed, chock-full of practical advice and easy steps to fill your creative life with trauma, missteps and angst.

Take another look at the life of a writer, and immerse yourself in the hysterical chaos of the life of a miserable, starving-in-a-garret author... or, perhaps, laugh your way to the other side of writer's block.

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