I am probably the last person to speak to anyone about dealing with discouragement. I have always been a “glass half empty” kind of guy, and I generally have a pessimistic view of life, politics, and humanity in general (Would it figure that I’m a big fan of the study of history. If human history doesn’t get you down, nothing will). So how can I write something remotely useful on dealing with discouragement, when most of my life was lived in discouragement? I mean, why did it take me so long to complete a novel-length project, when I’d wanted to do one since I was a kid? That’s right, I was concerned with ‘getting it right’, with what people thought (which you think might be important, if you want what you wrote to sell), and I still am. So how is it that I have completed five novel-length works so far, and am working on a sixth? And how is that I have published one of those works (so far) with more on the way?
The whole story of how I finally “knuckled under”, so to speak, involves some personal issues and losses that I am not quite ready to discuss here, not yet. I guess I had to get to a point where I didn’t think I had anything to lose by finally pursuing my dream goal. I’ve made mention of being partially influenced by a “mid-life crisis”, and I suppose this is true. But you eventually get to a point where you become burdened more by the things you dreamed about and did not accomplish than by the petty concerns (either real or perceived) of acceptance and ‘fitting in’. I suppose that is why I finally reached my goal of writing a book.
And yet, it’s been on-and-off discouraging. Sales haven’t been the greatest, not yet. Now, I have received a few reviews of my work, both published (at Amazon and Goodreads) and verbal, and most of them have been good to glowing. However, it is the negative reviews — and I’ve received a couple of them — that nag at me. Wait, what? Most of your reviews have been positive, but you dwell on the few negatives? Are you crazy? I hope I’m not. But as I said, I tend to be harder on myself than any critic could be, and I tend to dwell in discouragement. So, how do I keep on doing what I’m doing?
That’s not so easy. I suppose there is the element of faith — in a good God and in myself, primarily, but also faith in the people who have supported my and my work. I don’t have many fans yet, but those I do have are an awesome bunch of folks, and I do thank you all (you know who you are!) from the bottom of my heart. That encouragement really does help. But I am also tired of giving up on myself and my passions. I did that for too long; it got me nowhere, which should come as no surprise. I am not going to do that anymore. I have found my path, and I am going to tread upon it, come criticism or praise. I can no longer allow a few naysayers to thwart me, including my biggest naysayer — myself.
In Suburban Vampire, I created a character known as Tommy the Tormentor. I can tell you how this character was influenced by JRR Tolkein’s Gollum, and to some extent he was. But more than that, Tommy was the personification of the “negative voice” that I’d entertained for far too long, the voice of discouragement, the voice that told me I could not or should not follow my dream. In the novel, we find that Tormentors are parasites, that you can never truly get rid of them, but you can remove their power from them, first by being aware of their existence, then by refusing to listen to them. That is how it works — awareness must come first, then taking power over that voice. Have I been totally successful in combating my personal tormentors? Of course not. But the more I forge ahead, despite the “slings and arrows”, the more empowered I become, and the less I care about the negative voices, be they external or internal.
In other words, just keep on keeping on. Do not worry about tomorrow, let tomorrow worry about itself. Do what you were meant to do. That doesn’t mean it will become easy, but perhaps it may become easier. This isn’t some “feel-good” trite cliched bunch of crap, this is a call to the hard work of gritting your teeth and doing hard work — but it is hard work that I love. Work hard at what you love, whether or not you make money from it, whether or not you achieve fame and fortune, just find what you love and pursue it — and learn to ignore the critics. That, my friends, is success.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with a little saying (I know, I’m trying not to be trite, oh well): “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, criticize”. So? Can you? Then do.