Curiosity Might Just Kill The Author

 

If you’re a writer putting your work out there for others to read, at some point you’ll hear the advice: Do not read your reviews. Oh, you’ll do it anyway, at least for a while, but those bad reviews can sting. Well, at least when they’re coherent they can.

Bad reviews also sting because writers have feelings. (This seems to be a missing cog in some reviewers’ wheels.)

If we didn’t have feelings, we wouldn’t be able to write anything worth reading. We internalize what we read and what we see. That’s how we have enough mishegas—craziness—in our heads to need to GET IT OUT onto paper. For others to read. And review. Apparently so that we have more to internalize. Because we internalize what we read. (See a pattern emerging?)

And that’s what brings me to this next bit of advice that no one ever shared with me. I’m giving you this to your straight to save you all some heartache and to save you a trip to the reflecting pond. Because you know we all go there anyway. No need for extra travel.

Do not read the long bios of other authors.

I did this so you don’t have to.

Have a great time reading the short snappy ones on the back of the book, but back away from the long ones. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones tucked away or maybe even highlighted online that outline a lifetimes of degrees, travels, accomplishments, and diseases cured. Or the ones that detail the scuba diving prowess, the years digging wells in underprivileged countries, the Fortune 500 job ditched when a novel written on weekends hit it big.

Until I fell down the online rabbit hole of author bios, I’d really considered writing the great equalizer of my life. You write, I write, we have something in common. That’s all we need. Writing is an intense gig, writers can talk about a paragraph for hours.

But, for some reason, these compacted lives just toppled me. Had fact that I’d not done any of those important things tipped the scales in someone else’s favor? What else had I missed out on? I didn’t have time replant forests and living in a hut or in Dubai was not an option. I started raising kids in 1992. But some of these authors have also raised children (although my daughter assures me there is no way these people have friends).

I insisted to myself I am the only published author in the universe without a master’s degree in something. Had everyone been required to join the peace corp or save dolphins or spearhead urban gardening initiatives? And why didn’t I get the memo?

In those few moments of hazed uncertainty I was sure that while I was following my ex around the country while he followed his dream everyone else was intentionally padding their future curricula vitae for a website they didn’t even know would exist—when it never even occurred to me to do anything but what I was doing simply for the sake of doing it.

Where was everyone else who did nothing?*

While some of my everyday and everything friends are writers, I don’t know too much about most of my writer friends other than their writing, and the tidbits they share on social media. Cute kids and sports. Cute kids and school. Cute kids and awards. Inspirational quote. Pedicures (which I hate). Vacations. Food.

Is it better that way? Keep Writerland Clean? Is that our motto? Writerland is the place I belong. With a few exceptions, it’s my favorite place.

When I took a breath and a step back (which required assistance), I realized that none of the things I read about on any of these bios are things I wished I had done. Ever. Not one. None of them interested me, they just impressed me. And there’s a difference.

Your path, my path, his path, her path. It doesn’t matter how we differ as writers, what matters is what makes us the same. That’s the secret sauce for the writing life. That it is a great equalizer. (So go! Climb your mountain! Sail your seas! I’ll be right here when you get back!) And all that good stuff is exactly what I remembered after letting off some of my under-achieving steam with the help of a wonderful writer friend. One with a Ph.D.

But we didn’t talk about that.

Amy xo

* I am fully aware I did not spend my life doing nothing. I am proud of the kids I raised, the person I am, the things I’ve done. But now I have to go dig a well in my backyard for underprivileged suburban bunnies. Cya. 

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22 thoughts on “Curiosity Might Just Kill The Author

  1. I listed all I’ve done because they were dreams I had. Then they became goals and as I captured each one it helped my confidence grow. After achieving goal 1, 2, 3, 4 and now to be working to hit #5) become a published, best selling, loved writer. It feels good to list them and mark them off my bucket list. But no one needs to do what I did to be a great writer. What makes a good writer is different in each one of us. So list your goals with pride no matter what it is it will be a help to you as a writer. I bet if you look back you’ll find many goals you have achieved. A full time wife and mother is sure an accomplishment, Just read this excellent piece Amy has written and rethink your achievements. Amy you are so talented I can’t believe you don’ have many many more mile stones than most.

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  2. Loved your post!

    As I’ve just finished my second book and am working on my bio, unfortunately it won’t be studded with higher degrees and overseas volunteering either, my PhD – worthy research studies leaned towards the household variety including locating far flung soccer field locations without the help of the carload of teenaged boys, or professional pet stain removal from varied floor coverings. My amazing athletic accomplishments, running household stairs marathons before school to retrieve forgotten objects, (mostly mine) or the almost-Olympic event of Laundry Find, Tug, Sort and Toss.

    Thanks for reminding us that we all start our writer’s day with pen to page or fingertip to keyboard.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed your post today Amy. First time commenting here but usually stop and take a look when your blog link appears in my window. Always like what you have to say. And know what? I have done some cool stuff, lived in different countries, learned some different languages, had some exciting adventures (a few) but I have not completed my OWN book. ( I ghostwrite and edit.) And when I do write, a lot of what interests me is just what you write about: women, their interior adventures and crises and relationships and reflections and predicaments. And as for bios, a great bio is just that, another exposition, another bit of creative writing. What matters is THE BOOK. Thanks for sharing these thoughts!

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  4. I’m having a flashback to a horrible moment before I was published and I went to hear an A list author speak. After telling us how she wrote her break-out, debut novel in secret while holding down two full-time jobs and raising ten thousand children under the age of five, I called my husband in tears. I was a stay-at-home mom with one child and one unpublished manuscript. I felt like such a failure, until my husband pointed out no one could have two full-time jobs. 🙂

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  5. Enjoyed your post, Amy. And I thought I was the only one guilty of comparing myself to these wonder women who have done it all, seen it all and written multiple books by not sleeping. Reading these bios where every published writer seems to have a Master of Fine Arts degree and has worked in publishing since the age of five, it’s easy for someone like me with a college degree and a career that has had nothing to do with writing/publishing to feel inadequate. But I just tell myself, the stories I have to tell are my own and come from my unique experiences…and then I can crawl out of my hiding place under the bed. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Amy, right on, sista! We are who we are and we write what we write and our life is what it is. I love that you said “I realized that none of the things I read about on any of these bios are things I wished I had done. Ever. Not one. None of them interested me, they just impressed me. And there’s a difference.” Right there. Yes. Thank you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent post, Amy! Even though it’s interesting that some writers have scaled mountains, traveled the world or earned multiple degrees, the irony is that doesn’t necessarily make them great writers. If they are great writers, they likely would have been even if they’d just stayed home. The Bronte sisters are a good example! I think experiences add to our knowledge and might inspire us, but that is just one piece of the writing puzzle.

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  8. I find that no matter where I am in the writing stage, there is ALWAYS something about which to be insecure. Someone is always doing more/better/prettier than I am (how’s that for an awkward turn of phrase? :-). You’re dead right about those author bios. Best to avoid them.

    However, I take umbrage at one thing you say: Who in her right mind can hate pedicures? 🙂 If nothing else, just sitting without anyone making demands is sooooo nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for the advice. Still waiting to be published and finding it completely intimidating when reading some author bios as well as the “first time I ever submitted I got published” stories. It does make you want to throw in the towel some days. Just stumbled across your blog and I like your vision of women’s fiction. Fits right in with what I write…definitely no vampires.

    Like

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