I felt a tingle through my body when ‘Offred’ read out this iconic, yet largely made-up phrase, in Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale. Not because it’s latin but because its translation speaks volumes.
Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
It’s a motto for life, I’m sure. But also, for writing.
When we write, whether it’s fiction or not, we are putting a part of ourselves into the world. To be enjoyed, acclaimed, critiqued and scrutinised. It takes some kind of thick skin to put yourself out there, time and time again.
But what if we’re not even at the point of putting our work out into the world?
I read a tweet the other day from someone whose opinion I value. This person mentioned how they cannot stand when certain experiences in life are used for plot points in a book. That it’s in some way cheating, lazy and insensitive.
As soon as I read the tweet my heart sank. I felt like this person was directing their tweet at me. Even though they hadn’t read any of my work.
It made me question everything I’ve been working towards.
It made me want to quit the draft and start on something new.
I sat with this discomfort for a while, and then I read a post by Marie McLean, who was clearly going through similar feeling as my own, though for different reasons. And what she said spoke to me, about not giving up. About seeing this thing through to the end.
I knew when I started writing this book that it was shrouded in controversy. In fact, it was part of the reason I wanted to write it in the first place. I wanted my fiction to be about something real. Something that people could relate to, in whatever abstract way that may be.
It’s never going to please everyone. Even people I like.
I’ve since come out the other side, and I think my writing will be all the better for it. Perhaps I will even strengthen the concept with these comments in mind.
Regardless of how far my book goes, at least I’ll know I never gave up.
Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum.