What if People Don’t Like My Book? (And What if They Attack Me?!)
Maybe you’re afraid of what your friends or neighbors will think of your book. Or maybe you’re worried about your family’s reaction. And what about those mean girls from your past, the ones you’re “friends” with on FB but don’t actually see in real life?
Ack! I get it. Putting a book out can be a vulnerable experience, regardless of your book’s topic. Memoirs tend to expose the writer in ways both large and small, but so do all sorts of other books, including non-fiction and fiction. Even a seemingly “staid” book on a professional topic can send the best of us into a panic.
Because we’re stepping out of our comfort zone. We’re being seen.
And that can stop us in our tracks.
When a situation doesn’t feel safe, our bodies respond with the fight, flight or freeze response—an evolutionary tool that kept us safe and out of harm’s way. But even though we’re no longer being chased by lions, our bodies still respond accordingly to any potential threats.
What this means is that we fight, run away or freeze as a way of keeping ourselves safe from anything that might feel threatening (even if it’s just a deadline or an argument with your spouse.)
And what if you’re a writer? Well, that means we might just stop writing. And that potential threat (whatever or whoever it might be) might just keep us from getting our book (as well as our gifts) into the world.
So what do we do about that? How do we get around it?
We start by asking what we need to do to take care ourselves during the writing and/or publication process.
Maybe this means sharing your work with a few trusted friends in the beginning, then widening that circle once you’re ready for it.
It might also mean creating a safe space as you write.
For example, you could start by calming your physical body before you sit down to write. (This gets you out of your mammalian brain and the fight-flight-freeze response we talked about above.) Start by taking a few deep breaths. Or put your hand on your heart. Remind yourself that you’re in a safe space, and look around your physical space if you need to. Reassure yourself that no one’s out to get you. Touching something soft can help, as can drinking a warm, soothing cup of tea. Giving yourself a hug also helps.
Then what? What happens when you’re finally ready to share your work?
A good rule of thumb is to never share anything you haven’t worked through. For example, if you’re writing a personal blog post or memoir, be sure you’ve worked through the trickier parts of your story with a therapist or close friends first. ONLY share your story publicly once you’ve come to your own personal resolution.
What if you’ve done everything above and you’re still terrified to share your story?
Try asking yourself this: what is the personal cost of you NOT sharing your story?
That helps, doesn’t it?
I hope so.
Because the world needs your gifts, my dear.
It needs your particular brand of medicine.
And waiting until you’re no longer scared, or the mean girls go away, or until your family passes away just means … more waiting.
Here’s a better way: write your book.
And you do that by writing that first draft of your book just for you. Don’t think about what anyone’s going to say about it until after you’ve written that draft.
You’ll cross the next bridge when you come to it. And you’ll have plenty of time down the road to figure out if you need to revise any parts of your story to keep yourself safe. YOU get to decide that, after all. It’s your book.
So please don’t wait to start writing. And please don’t wait to follow your dream of getting a book into the world. As someone who’s spent far too much of her life waiting (waiting for others, waiting for permission, and just plain ‘ole waiting), I know how much pain that can cause. Just start, my dear. Start writing. Start your book.
And remember: you don’t have to tell anyone what you’re up to. This is YOUR story, after all. It’s safe. So are you.
P.S.: If you’re ready to get your story into the world, but don’t know where to start or how to do it, join us for our new 5-week online course How to Get Your Book into the World. Registration closes this Thursday night (10/26), so please don’t wait. We’ve got a great group shaping up, and if this is something that feels right for you, we’d love to have you join us! And if you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or just hit “reply” to this email. Here’s the direct link with a full course description as well as registration links:
P.P.S. My sincerest apologies if you tried to email me last week and it bounced—I switched websites and didn’t realize that my email address went AWOL in the process. Yikes! Very thankful it’s now fixed.