A blustery, blizzardy day here in Santa Fe! My iron fairy sculpture has wind-blown rain and snow frozen to it. Springtime in the Rockies!
We had a lovely time in Tucson over the weekend, though they weren’t a whole lot farther along springwise than we are. A cold winter, with lots of precipitation. We’re hoping that bodes well for a lush and lavish summer.
I know, I know. I am an idealist at heart.
Last week I had a conversation that really stuck with me. Well, to be honest, I was hurt, which wasn’t at all the intention of the person speaking. See, what happened is, I was talking with an aspiring author of science fiction. She’d been struggling with some structural issues and genre expectations, and she mentioned she’d re-read one of my books to study how I’d done certain things. Which is lovely and flattering! I then offered to read her book for her and see if I had any suggestions to offer. She asked if I was sure and I said, yes, I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t want to. And she said, oh, well, a mutual acquaintance of ours had warned her that I was territorial about science fiction and fantasy so not to expect help from me there.
I was frankly stunned.
You know that feeling, like you’ve been punched? That.
And my friend felt terrible. She even tried to convince me that being territorial about a genre isn’t a bad thing, that lots of people feel that way. I suppose that’s true, that territoriality and jealousy are part and parcel of our profession. But to me those are terribly negative emotions and go against everything I believe in and work toward.
I don’t hold her to blame for telling me, but I am unhappy with the person who said this thing about me. No, I don’t know who it is. My friend wouldn’t say. It maybe doesn’t matter, except that it reflects on the mindset of that person. I don’t know where they got this idea about me, and since they haven’t said it to my face, I’ll have to speak up for myself here.
I have to tell you all, I immediately went to Grace Draven and she said “Whaaa?” and then “Who said that and why would they say it? You’re one of the most generous people out there with your help and experience. It’s unfair, unjust, and just totally out in left field.”
Which made me feel much better. Maybe I should just hold Grace’s purse while she beats them up for me. She’s a good friend. She’d probably help me dispose of the body, too.
As satisfying as that would be, I’d rather set the record straight. No, I’m not territorial about SFF. I’m not sure someone CAN be territorial about an entire genre. Even if I wanted to somehow keep all the SFF-writing to myself, I don’t know how I’d go about it. Decline to read and critique other’s work? Refuse to blurb books written by debut authors? Talk smack about my fellow authors in the genre instead of cheering their releases and sharing good news about them? Walk away from collaborative projects? Go all ninja on their asses and slip poison into their morning coffee?
Demonstrably, I don’t do any of those things. (Except maybe the ninja poison thing, in which case no one will ever know I was there BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!)
I devote a lot of time to supporting my fellow authors and their books, at all levels of the game. In fact, people close to me gently suggest I spend LESS time on stuff that isn’t my own work. I am a Director at Large on the Board of Directors for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) because I want to support the genre and profession. People close to me gently suggest I spend less time on volunteering too. I ignore those gentle suggestions because I believe in giving generously of myself. That’s important to me. Probably one of my most closely held values.
So, you can see why it bothered me that someone out there talked smack about me this way. You could accuse me of many flaws. I’d most likely agree with chagrin on what they are and renew my intentions to do better. But this is not one of them. I am not a person who worries about there being only so much pie to go around. Pies are easy to make. I’m totally in favor of more pie.
I’m really enjoying my friend’s book, too. When she gets it published, I’ll be the first to cheer about it.
Yesterday, I had a minor attack of author jealousy. I don’t like admitting it, but I consider this part of my therapy. I saw someone else’s book praised – a book that’s gotten several forms of praise that mine hasn’t – and the emotions rushed up and stabbed me. Calling it the Green Monster is a good analogy because that’s just how it feels, that toothy, nasty creature gnawing at your gut.
So, I sent an SOS to a good author friend, to talk me out of my tree, which she did immediately and admirably. She also asked, “could this be PMS?” (Sorry guys out there – just cover your eyes.) And I realized, to my great chagrin that, oh yes, the timing was exactly perfect for that.
How I hate being cliché.
Still, regardless of my personal hormone levels, the point is well taken: jealousy is an internal thing, not an external one.
This is easy to confuse, because it always feels like an external trigger. Why does HER book get attention that MINE doesn’t?? Never mind that I like her, love her book and truly wish her well. No matter the awards and love showered on my book in other ways. She has something I don’t and suddenly I’m five years old again and wailing over the one dolly some other kid has.
It’s baseless and childish, but still a real feeling.
That’s something I’ve learned from David, who just graduated with a degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the perspective that emotions affect our health. I guess we all kind of know this already, but sometimes I know I don’t take it seriously. But bottled-up emotions, in particular, eat at us – much like that toothy green monster – creating conditions for pathologies to set in. The trick is to accept the emotion and let it flow, through and out, where it can’t poison anything.
So, how did I release my stupid fit of jealousy?
1. Acknowledge that it’s real that I feel this way.
2. Vent to a friend who validated that it’s real and who loves me anyway.
3. Take positive action to get myself what I want.
What kind of action did I take? Well, I could have done any number of things – sent my book to a reviewer, entered in for an award, gone on a promo bender. All of those things have rewards that are outside of my control. And it’s really just jonesing for that chocolate-covered heroin of attention.
So what’s the one thing I can do, that I can always control as a writer? That is the fundamentally most important thing for me to be spending my time and energy on?
Say it with me, kids: WRITE.
That’s what I did. I spent an hour writing on the new novella my editor asked me to write. Which I need to work on anyway.
And afterwards? I felt ever so much better besides being a few steps closer to my goal.