Last week, a now-ex-subscriber took issue with something I'd put in one of my emails/posts. According to him, "[Tolkien] was altogether too good a writer and poet to be the butt of your humor."
For some reason, this really bugged me. I wasn't sure why. After giving it some consideration, though, I think I've figured it out:
No writer, however brilliant, is above reproach. Not me. Not Shakespeare. Not Tolkien. See, for example, this unflattering review by one of the literary-criticism giants of Tolkien's time. (This article gives some context for that review.)
Given #1, there's something incredibly arrogant about telling someone which writers they can and can't criticize. Especially because this person only seems to contact me when he wants to criticize me!
As I said, this person is now an ex-subscriber. There's disagreeing, and then there's being disagreeable. Repeatedly. So I removed him from my email list and blocked his email on my account.
Here's the thing about being a writer. I think we're all at least a bit more sensitive than people who aren't writers. It's what enables us to pick up on tone, humor, connotations of words, subtle details, and so on and use them effectively in our work. Personally, I think it also makes us more receptive to inspiration, eureka moments, the Muse, or whatever you call those great ideas that come to us out of nowhere. Unfortunately, that sensitivity can also leave us prone to getting our feelings hurt. (This probably applies more to some of us than to others. 🙋🏻♀️)
While pain can help us make our work more authentic, it also poses a serious problem for writers. To paraphrase one of my college professors:
"When you have unmet needs—like when you're tired, hungry, or hurting—it's really hard to feel inspiration." (emphasis mine)
It makes sense. When you're in pain (physically or emotionally), it tends to consume all your attention. It's tough to notice anything else, especially subtle ideas. Plus, it's no fun!
So if there's something in your life right now that's hurting you, may I recommend you take a look at that? Trust me: the stereotype of the tortured artist is way overrated. Our minds and hearts are our greatest writing tools, and we need to take care of them. That could involve planning a fun activity to look forward to, ending a toxic relationship, seeing a doctor or counselor, or whatever. Not only will it help you feel better, but it'll help you write better, too.
And if you need someone to talk to, I'm happy to listen.
(Thanks to christian buehner for sharing their work on Unsplash.)