“You’re so stupid. You’ll never succeed. I can’t believe you thought anyone would be interested in what you have to say.”
When you hear these words, you know what they are, right?
Emotional abuse. Plain and simple.
I know all about emotional abuse. My one and only marriage was riddled with it. Later, I facilitated educational groups for battered women about emotional abuse, and since then, I’ve made it a point to steer clear of people in my life who were emotional abusers. So I should know better.
But for the past many months, as the journey to publication continues, it’s been me bullying me. Telling myself a thousand reasons why this whole book thing was a bad idea. After all, I’m no Hemingway or reality star. Who cares about what I have to say?
And the intensive process itself only added to the isolation. I began saying no to a lot of invitations that would eat up my time due to associated tasks regarding my book. Constant edits. Articles to write for the publicity team. Blurbs to request. This form to approve. A website to revamp. All simply part of what it takes to put a book together. I knew this going in.
I’d imagined the process would be more personal, and that there would be phone conversations and maybe even Face Time so I might really know the team I was working with by the time our work was finished, but in this age of email, the need wasn’t there.
So my world shrank to become mostly me and my negative self-talk, fumbling through a process that for me, was anything but easy. And though I belong to some awesome online forums for writers, I didn’t feel comfortable posting my misery. I’d asked for this journey, begged and prayed for it. How silly would it be to reach out and say what I was ruminating over: I think my writing stinks. Do you ever feel that way? I’m frustrated by X. How’s that been for you? Is anyone worried about disappointing their readers? Memoirists, do you worry about alienating your friends or family you’ve mentioned in your book, or those you haven’t, or who during the process were edited out?
That inner critic, the voice inside us that is harsh and judgmental, kept getting louder and louder until I began losing sleep. And the more time I spent alone entertaining the inner critic–without friends or family around me to counterbalance the negative messages, and without opening myself to the new peer group, the more I bought in to those messages.
It wasn’t until later that I read about this normal phenomenon, called the Author Freak-out Zone, mentioned in Green Light Your Book (page 121) by Brooke Warner.
In it, she cites an author who listed her feelings about her book online:
This is awesome.
This is tricky.
This is shit.
I am shit.
This might be okay.
This is awesome.
But Green Light Your Book hadn’t been released yet, so I looked at blog posts on the topic of the inner critic, listened to podcasts, and kept plugging along until my final draft was sent in. Occasionally, I interacted with a writer here or there to interview for my blog.
And then I received an email through my website’s Contact button. Someone acknowledging my upcoming book release and asking if I could use some extra links for my Resources page. I was curious to see if it was a scammer (Not nice, I know, but I had to check! ) The person and I emailed back and forth for a bit and I verified that indeed, this smart young woman at a university in Florida spoke with her friend who’d read my book When Push Comes to Shove and told her I had a memoir being published, a detail referenced in the back of that book. She found me online and reached out.
Wow! Wow! Wow!
And best of all were her parting words.
“Don’t doubt what you’re doing Lizbeth, because what you’re doing is great! Even if your story helps only one person, I would think it’d be worth it, ya know?”
I do know. I just lost sight of that for a while.
I am proud to say that my debut memoir will be released soon. Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters is available for pre-order at Amazon now. ISBN 978-1631528347
For more information on self -care and silencing your inner critic:
She Writes Press is now for sale at your local retailers.