So you discover this morning from a reputable source that a grand nephew twice removed through divorce and adoption thinks your last book was second-rate and “whiny.” Worried, you decide to try therapy to make sure you’re not harboring ingratitude or a pathetic victim mentality. Or, as a cheaper option, you consider hiring an editor for your next manuscript to eradicate any possible language that might be interpreted as “victim-y.”
After this decision, which you feel good about, you get an email from a woman who says your last book is the best book she’s ever read and she wants everyone in the world to read it and would you send some more books with your autograph and maybe even a family photo? You breathe deeply, read the email over several times, and block off time to do this.
Later that day you hear that someone thinks the scarf you wore at last night’s reading was too retro and someone else thought you looked fat in that purple dress. Stricken, you drop the scarf in the trash, a bit sad because you did like it, after all, and at dinner an hour later, you eat only salad because you know it’s not just the dress.
While picking at your salad and checking your email, you discover that some friends are angry with you for not including them in your latest writing project and others who asked to be in your manuscript are bitterly complaining about their inclusion.
Saddened, you head to your seminar that night, after carefully choosing slimming clothes and a plain scarf. You speak with all the passion you have left after such a day and some people cheer and cry, and afterward a woman tells you you’re better than watching a movie, while an elderly man in the back row falls asleep in the middle of the most dramatic part.
And after many such days, you lie awake on your pillow finally knowing what the unforgivable sin is—or, rather, the unlivable sin, and you vow you will no longer do it, you will no longer commit the terrible sin of belief. You will no longer believe all the rumors of madness, the rumbles of inadequacy and girth, nor reports of laud and praise. You know they are all true in some way, and they are all false in some way as well, but mostly, you know they will kill you with redirection and indecision.
In such times, you dose yourself with Ann Lamott:
“Yet, I get to tell my truth. I get to seek meaning and realization. I get to live fully, wildly, imperfectly. That’s why I’m alive. And all I actually have to offer as a writer, is my version of life. Every single thing that has happened to me is mine. As I’ve said a hundred times, if people wanted me to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
“My pastor said last Sunday that if you don’t change directions, you are going to end up where you are headed. Is that okay with you, to end up still desperately trying to achieve more, and to get the world to validate your parking ticket, and to get your possibly dead parents to see how amazing you always were?”
And you suddenly know it’s true: the world will not validate your parking ticket, so give it up and return to the life you’re supposed to be living. Your one “wild and precious life” given to you not to be hoarded but to be given away. And when you give it away, however kind you try to be and whatever form it takes, because the world is a crazy place, this will always be true: Someone is always waiting to shoot down your moon. Just know that some will be angry, some will bless you, some will betray you, some will be mean and small and some will be grateful and love you for life, till death do you part.
In all the betrayal, admiration, and lights, here is what you do:
You work at loving them all, and you keep on writing.
You will not be hushed, not by hurt or by hate; you keep on writing.
You will not keep trying to satisfy insatiable people; you keep on writing.
You will not listen to critics in the shadows, afraid of their own lives; you keep on writing.
You will not let praise erode your stability; you keep on writing (and rewriting).
Don’t let anyone shoot down your moon. Tell the truth. Please God. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. And for the sake of us all,
13 Replies to “Don’t Let Anyone Shoot Down Your Moon”
Leslie, I thank you for this posting. Just what I needed this eve after my critique group meeting. Cogent, practical, humorous, insightful.
Would like to go back to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. You live in a wondrous part of creation. Blessings.
Samuel—thanks so much. ANd good for you, to attend a workshop group. It can be both helpful and hard,but keep their comments in perspective. (Yes, the Valley is just across the Shelikof from us. LOVE this corner of the world. P.S. Do you know about my Wilderness Workshop held here annually? http://www.leslieleylandfields.com/p/harvester-island.html)
Powerful, beautifully written encouragement, exactly what I needed to hear. I am newly motivated to keep looking ahead and not allow myself to get distracted by either the praise or the criticism. And to just keep writing. Thank you.
Thanks, Sara! Strange, how even praise can undo us . …We must hold it all lightly and forge ahead! Blessings on your work, Sara!!
Sara Davidson — I couldn’t have said it better. It was exactly what I needed to hear, also.
And Sam. Bless you for being so transparent. (I’m not tossing out the purple dress.)
Dell — from Garibaldi
Or, we can “dose ourselves” on Lesley Leyland Fields and be refreshed and encouraged! Great post. Thank you!
Oh gosh–thanks Micky!
Thank you so much! This is just what I needed to hear today!
These are words of wisdom (and comfort!) every writer needs to hear. Thank you for sharing them, Leslie – they remind me why I write, especially as I begin wrapping up one exhausting book launch to move on to writing the next book. Your reference to ‘one wild and precious life’ really hit home for me, as it is one of my favorite phrases – I came across it when I hit 50 and decided it was my turn to go after my dreams. I’m having a ball living my wild and precious life, and when others try to ‘shoot down my moon,’ which happens to us all, I remind myself that ultimately, my life is the one God gives to me and no one can take that away. Blessings on you, Leslie!
Jan—thank you. Your words have blessed me!! I do know how exhausting book launches are—and then we launch again into the next project. That’s exactly where I am as well. But SO much good comes from that hard work . .. I think we’re lifers, Jan. Isn’t that great??!!
We know this to be true, yet we need to be reminded. Thanks for sharing it again.
Reblogged this on Samuel Hall and commented:
Leslie Fields exhorts for a balanced view and response to what others say about you–even the positive things need to pass through the lens of reality. Sometimes when we’re so close to our own situation, it’s hard to determine what truly is reality.
Thanks Samuel! great blog!
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