By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
This is my centennial blog post. It is my 94th day of posting, but it will be my 100th post.
I’ve had the goal of writing at least once a day, and it started on November 29. Since that time I have posted informational posts, political posts, opinion posts, posts on depression, and humor posts. I have tried to steer clear of trying to change the minds of readers (especially on opinion and politics), and instead just tried to encourage independent thought, fact-based decision-making and research. Whether or not I have succeeded is for the reader to decide.
Early in 2011, I self-published a book called “Vampire Genetics” as an e-book on the two major self-publishing sites of the time. It’s so obscure that you won’t even find it on the sites where it is published if you type in the name of the book, but fortunately my last name is unusual enough that it will come up under that.
Often, people will read blogs like this one, or books like mine, and think to themselves, “Even I could write better than that.” The reality is that it’s entirely possible. Even looking at the works of William Shakespeare, there was a person (or, with modern conspiracy theories, multiple persons) who did have the skill and talent to write that well, so, it is entirely possible that there are, or have been, or will be people capable of writing at least as well, or better. With such a convoluted sentence as I’ve just written, clearly that individual is not me.
But what does it take to be an author of a blog, or a book? For a book, it takes an idea, such as mine. The inspiration for the vampire book is that I was tired of vampires with such incredible power needing to rely on martial arts, or vampires with emotional problems, or vampires that “glitter”. I wanted an old-fashioned vampire story, and couldn’t find one, so I wrote my own. With what I knew of retroviruses and genetics, I created a story that I wanted to bring the legend back, resurrected, if you will, from the dead. In the case of a blog, you need ideas for every blog that you write. But, the idea is, in my humble opinion, the easy part.
Yup, you can come up with ideas from anywhere; news articles, movies, books, anything that sparks your imagination. In my mind, when I see a superhero movie, it is not uncommon for me to change the story line to something I like better. Throughout the years, I have written down ideas for stories and books that I’ve never capitalized on a multitude of times, but to convert the idea into reality takes discipline.
Yes, discipline. For a decade I worked on the outline for my book, but until I made the conscious decision to write a minimum of two pages a day, it never was realized. Two pages a day isn’t bad, and often I would write more. The thing that I found most interesting about the writing process is that, as I developed the characters, there were times that they did things that even I did not expect. No, I’m not insane. As far as I know. But I would develop something to which the characters would have to respond, and eventually, when the time came for that response, I would realize that what I thought they would do didn’t fit their character, or I would have a new idea or twist pop into my mind. But the discipline, the actual work of writing, is still not the hard part.
The hard part is releasing it. Putting it out there. Being vulnerable.
After writing it (several times), and editing it (several more times), it still sat on my computer for years. Actually releasing it has got to be the most unnerving part of publishing.
I make mistakes. Of that there is no doubt, and, frankly, my friends are quick to point them out. That’s easy. Those are constructive criticisms, and can be easily mitigated. But, so many things race through your mind when you publish. Back in 2011, I worried that other more critical friends and acquaintances would read it and simply laugh at me, at the premise of the story, of how poorly it was written, or how stupid I was to even try.
How stupid I was to even try. This is my greatest fear even today. I’ve spent my life hearing family, friends, acquaintances, enemies, and so many more tell me how stupid it is to even try something. These are like barbed arrows piercing my heart, my mind, my very soul. I cannot recount to you the number of times I have given up before even beginning because I would told I would be stupid to even try. But, see, this is not constructive criticism.
When I taught, I used to have my students fill out satisfaction surveys (which is required). I would always ask students three questions (which were optional); what is something that I did that helped, something I did that did nothing for you, and something that I did that hurt your learning in this class? I warned them that if all three were not filled out in a legitimate fashion, I would consider none of them. If a student truly loved me and had nothing bad to say was of no more use than a student who absolutely hated me and could find nothing good. And I always told them the difference between criticism (“you SUCK”) versus helpful suggestions (“you SUCK because…”).
Criticisms from my friends come from a place of Love, with no ill will intended. And I have to admit; I adore my readers…YOU have been AWESOME!!! But every reader that I have has the power to launch a lobby of arrows at me and inflict real pain. This is the vulnerability of publishing.
An analogy just occurred to me, one to which I believe most people can relate. Do you know that one person that you had the huge crush on, the one that you finally got up the nerve to asking out? That’s the kind of vulnerability of which I speak. When you ask somebody out, in essence you are saying that you have already judged them and found them to be somebody with whom you would like to spend time. Now, right now, in asking them out, you are asking them to judge you and decide if you are worth their time. Before the answer, all you can do is wait for that judgment, with all of your own self-doubts, the critical voices in your mind, the bad experiences in your past wreaking havoc on you, while you try desperately not to look like you are trying desperately to hold it together.
But you did it. You asked that person out, and there is victory in that. You’ve found the inner strength to fight all of those demons back long enough to get it out there, to put yourself on the line, to stand up for yourself and say, “whatever the judgment…here I stand, exposed and ready to hear that judgment.
For one hundred posts, here I stand, naked before you.