Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sometimes You Need a Tiara


A while back I was talking to my friend Robin. It was annual review day and where she works not only do you get reviewed by your supervisor, you also are reviewed by your peers. We all know now stressful it is to be reviewed. It affects not only your salary for the next year, but the evaluation of your performance affects how you feel about yourself, your job, and your boss. If you’ve ever been a manager or worked at a company that does peer reviews, you know it’s just as stressful on the other side of the process. So the day had been a double whammy for her, even though her review was good.

“It’s a good thing I had my tiara,” Robin said.

My blank look spoke volumes.

“When I have a bad day, I put on my tiara and remind myself that I’m a pretty, pretty princess,” Robin explained.

Now both of us are far from young, far from the days when we dressed up in our mothers’ long dresses and made ourselves crowns out of construction paper and pretended to be princesses—or even queens. When you’re five or six or nine, you believe in fairy tales to the point that you pretend to live in one. You rule your subjects with a beneficent hand and dream of the day when Prince Charming will ride up, and you will fall in love and live happily ever after.

Somewhere along the way, some of us discover there is no Prince Charming for us. And I am not missing the irony that this post is going up on Valentine’s Day. I’m not going to get all gloomy about that.

We get too old to believe in fairy tales. Instead we enter that middle period of our lives when we’re caught up in careers and children and marriages gone wrong. We’re too adult to pretend to be princesses any more.

Until we’re not.

Writers have their own share of disappointments. There are days when we think we’ll never be able to write a novel again. After Agatha Christie finished each book, she told her husband she’d forgotten how to write a novel. Over time he learned to ignore her because somehow she always managed to write the next book. There are lots of days when we’re sure what we’ve put on the page is crap, trite, unoriginal, and something no one will ever want to read.

There are days when we look at our dashboard and see no sales, or look at the pages for our books and see their ever-declining rank and feel like we’re total failures.

And the reviews. We can be sailing along on a high because we sold a book, even many books because of a promotion, and then one of our new readers posts a one or two-star review and our hearts sink. It’s silly. Every author gets bad reviews. Even Agatha Christie. Even Stephen King. Online writers groups spend a lot of time telling one another not to read reviews. If you have to read them, don’t pay attention to them. It’s laughable because we can’t not pay attention to them. Writers are sensitive people. It’s part of what makes them able to write stories that touch other people. But the corollary of that is we tend to have emotional ups and downs. The ups are okay. It’s the downs that are a problem.

I thought about what Robin said and those silly mood swings over nothing terribly serious and decided that I, too, needed a tiara. So I went to Amazon and searched for “tiara” and was amazed at how many there were and how inexpensive it would be to buy one. Which I did.

So now, when I get a bad review or don’t sell any books, I put on my tiara and remind myself that I’m a pretty, pretty princess. It’s amazing how uplifting wearing a tiara can be.