Make sure you have a walking stick


Writing is a bit of a psych game, as I’ve learned. With the publication of “Duck Boy” I’ve rollercoastered up and down the hills of opinion, and lots of people who have ideas about how valuable and well-written it is. I feel strongly about the story when I read it. And, for who I am, the story really is written to the limits of my ability. But when I read reviews I am easily swayed. There are quite a few who warned me not to read reviews. There’s a great wisdom in this advice. It’s really like saying, don’t stick your hand in a blender when it’s blending. True, you have a point. Still.

As part of my promotional stuff, I have tried to look up good reviews and send them out as a way of keeping the book in people’s mind. So I do read them, sometimes accidentally, and sometimes on purpose. Sometimes they’re good. And well, who wouldn’t love a good review. Sometimes they’re bad. I start to read, and I can’t stop, the way my eyes sometimes can’t pull away from the gore of a gopher mowed down by a semi. Sometimes, thoughtful people come up to offer tips on things they think could be improved in a book. Like a woman who approached me to let me know that she thought my comma use was wrong. When I get one of these helpful insights or read one of these tough reviews, I implode, and there’s little to prop me up.

But you know what helps? One friend. You need one friend who knows his/her stuff really well, who thinks you’ve done a good job. I have one friend who read the story over who liked it and called it wonderful. And she repeated this to me several times BEFORE the book was published. She’s very smart. She has very high standards, so I can’t fool her. She won’t give me pity points either, or set the bar too low.

My mom is simply impressed with everything I do. Me breathing, according to my mom, is an accomplishment. So when my mom says its good, I can’t believe her. But D is far more difficult to impress. She’s known for her blunt honesty when she doesn’t like something. If she says she likes it, she likes it. So it was, that after the publication, and the silly emotional vicissitudes, I returned to this one person who honestly likes my work, over and over again. She is a walking stick, a crutch.

Now, I’m making this an official part of my writing process, to find one impartial booster to help keep my sanity. I’m going to seek this person out BEFORE publication, to help me cope. I”m also going to recommend others do the same.

Earlier this year, a collection of essays titled Hymns of Home was released. I’ve prepared the same way. I’ve found one person, also a D, but this time a male, who believes that this work has merit. I have my walking stick. I have my moment.

Because after a verbal bashing from a critic, I will return to this moment. And, I lean on it so I don’t fall over.

(The walking stick in the picture is diamond willow from the path behind my house.)

About Bill Bunn

Bill’s excited because his second YA novel, Kill Shot, is now available everywhere! Bill Bunn is the author of several books, essays, and articles. He is currently writing two pages a day to generate the rough draft of his next novel. Bill Bunn lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Bill teaches English at Mount Royal University.
This entry was posted in advice, Essays, fiction, non-fiction, Writing advice, Writing process, Young Adult and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Make sure you have a walking stick

  1. Diana Patterson says:

    But it is a bloody good book, Bill!

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