Mark Terry

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Doubting Thomas

September 12, 2006
Doubting Thomas, we are told, refused to believe that Jesus came back from the dead until he got some blood under his fingernails to prove it. The other 10 disciples, the story goes (Judas either having committed suicide by this point or he was thinking, "I am sooo screwed,"), were quite accepting of Jesus' return among them. I'm not sure what that says about the 10, actually. Either they had absolutely amazing levels of faith or they were as gullible, as say, most of the American electorate.

Anyway, I can relate to Thomas these days. I'm going through one of my periodic "I'm a talentless schmuck" episodes, where, despite having a multiple book contract, I doubt if they'll make money, I doubt if they will succeed enough to complete the contract, I doubt if anyone will like them...

Some of this has to do with a nasty review (where the reviewer basically said the book was a fine story, just too bad the guy who wrote it sucked) and a friend who read THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK and said she liked it but...

There's always a "but" isn't there? And of course, you can pretend to shrug these things off, but they still bug you. I tend to brood on these things for a day, then get over them. Today's my brooding day, I guess. Today everybody's a better writer than I am, they have better agents, editors and publishers, write better books, get better deals, and have better careers.

Of course it's all bullshit.

It might have been John Donne who said, "Comparisons are odious," but I'm sure he did his fair share, as well.

I can't speak for all fiction writers, but I suspect I am very much NOT alone in this regard. Robert B. Parker, who after 50 books and tons of positive reviews, you would think, wouldn't take much criticism to heart, but apparently he refuses to read negative reviews--his wife censors them for him. I get the impression Rick Riordan's wife does something similar, although my impression there is he's just uninterested in the Internet thing and his wife is.

We all deal with criticism in different ways, and how we deal with it varies from day to day and week to week, and I can assure you, in my case, I don't usually let criticism bother me. I've got a pretty thick skin and hey, I've had a lot of practice ignoring criticism over the years. Hell, I worked at Henry Ford Hospital Cytogenetics Lab for 18 years--if there's one thing I'm experienced with, it's criticism. I also tend to take criticism of my writing the same way I take praise--with a great deal of skepticism. "Thanks," I said. "Thank you very much." And you say it pretty much whether it's praise or criticism, don't you? Just the tone is different.

So why am I such a doubter today?

Well, blame it on fall. Shortening days, cooler, rainier weather. Yeah, that's it. Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Or maybe it's that many things in life don't matter to me as much as my books. I want to be well-liked, even loved, respected, admired, blah, blah, blah, and I want the checks to clear (damn straight), but I understand that in areas of my nonfiction writing and my personal life, I do what I do quite well and in terms of my personal life, I'm old enough to suspect I'm doing it the only way I can. The fiction, though, that's where my heart lies in many ways, and although I try not to take things personally, I do. At least for a while. Also, as anybody who labors in the fields of fiction, plotting a career is freakin' impossible. We all seem like rudderless ships blowing before whatever wind comes along.

And besides, it's not just the recent criticism. It's the 35 or so mailings that have been returned so far with "no forwarding address" or "undeliverable as addressed" stamped on them. It's the kids returning to school and the inevitable homework returns. It's the recent payment of quarterly taxes and the gap between paychecks. It's ... well, it's life, which sometimes can get you down. Tangled up in shit, or if you prefer Bob Dylan, tangled up in blue.

As for the criticism, well, as my agent, Irene, said about the one I showed her, "Are you familiar with the expression 'bite me'?"

Best,
Mark Terry

10 Comments:

Anonymous Dory said...

M/T

I got my Devil's Pitchfork brochure in the mail the other day.

I'm sure this news is bound to make your day better. ;)

IF not, how about this: A million yellow jackets were settled within a partial chimney ( house is brick and built in 1838)

Got them riled when I injected ammonia into a small opeining half way up the outside of the house last night.

The noise they created was like out of a horror movie.

Will repeat the process tonight to take care of the survivors.....I hope.

BB@Ya'
dory

8:01 AM  
Anonymous Dory said...

M/T

I got my Devil's Pitchfork brochure in the mail the other day.

I'm sure this news is bound to make your day better. ;)

IF not, how about this: A million yellow jackets were settled within a partial chimney ( house is brick and built in 1838)

Got them riled when I injected ammonia into a small opening half way up the outside of the house last night.

The noise they created was like out of a horror movie.

Will repeat the process tonight to take care of the survivors.....I hope.

BB@Ya'
dory

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Ron Estrada said...

Don't forget the rest of that little episode with Jesus and Thomas. Jesus said, "You believe because you see, but truly blessed are those who believe without seeing."

He was talking about us. And your analogy is a good one. It takes great faith to put in the thousands of hours we do into our writing, knowing full well it may never see a bookstore shelf. But we press on, no matter how many times we read about the number of manuscripts recieved by publishers each year.

By the way, I'm doing okay in 7th grade math. It's the 5th grader that may have me hitting the bottle. Saw your wife running with Frodo Saturday. Between the two of you, that's gonna be one healthy dog.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Well Mark, if it'll make you feel better, not only don't I have a better agent then you, I don't even have an agent. No agent but plenty of angst.

I don't rate my writing skills very highly. After all, I'm just a co-author. But, of course, if anyone criticizes my skills, that's different. It makes me angry, or depressed, or both.

My writing sucks but it's better than anyone ever gives me credit for.

You're right. That doesn't make any sense. Does my writing ever make sense?

I avoid bad reviews and rejection letters from agents. Mary reads them. All I want to know is the answer. Yea or Nay. The rest is just justification and bullshit. Not worth bothering with. Besides which it'd cut me to the bone if I read it.

Ah...the joys of writing...Did you know, with the new voice software you can type in a strait-jacket?

9:29 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

"Did you know, with the new voice software you can type in a strait-jacket?"

Well, that's a relief. Sign me up.

Ron, Ah yes, 5th grade. I don't envy you Christmas time when all the kids get to do their economics project, which Ian pretty nearly flunked--not because the project wasn't fabulous. It was. I should know, because it involved tons of manhours by yours truly (which we will NOT do the next time around--pick an easy thing to manufacture and sell). No, the majority of the grade was actually the report which my son failed to justify all the manhours, etc. And it was such a pleasant, stress-free time of year anyway.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Dory said...

Eric said:
Ah...the joys of writing...Did you know, with the new voice software you can type in a strait-jacket?"

And I was going to apologize for accidentally posting twice.

Eric, You didn't make my day; you made my 'whole weak'! Geez, I hate to have to wear Depends just to read this blog. ;)

To byte or not to byte; is not a question.

Tank yu, tank yu.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Sometimes you just have to pick a tune and crank it up, which I did: "Oh no, not you again" by the Rolling Stones:


"Oh no, not you again
Fucking up my life
It was bad the first time
I can't stand it twice

Oh no, not you again
I can't stand the pace
Once bitten, twice shy
Let me out of the race

The setting's so romantic
Love is in the air
All is perfect but I'm allergic
To your piercing stares

Oh no, not you again
Messing up my life
It was bad the first time, yeah
You had me in a vice

Oh no, not you again
I hear the inner shout
It was bad the first time around
When you turned me inside out

Everybody's talking
Showing off their wit
The moon is yellow but I'm not jello
Staring down your tits

My life flashes forward
Then it flashes back
I'm still dreaming and I'm screaming
"Get me off the rack!"

Oh no, not you again
I can't stand the pain
I was burned the first time, yeah
I can't deal again

Oh no, not you again
Mashing up my life, yeah
Once bitten, twice shy
But I can't do it twice

Oh no, not you again
Fucking up my life
It was bad the first time around
I better take my own advice

Oh no... "

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