The Ping Pong of the Writer’s Life: Beat Me Up, Then Publish My Book!

Français : ping-pong
Français : ping-pong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend of mine, I don’t know if she wants to be mentioned in my blog, once described the writer’s life as that of the action of a yo-yo: the rejections, the acceptances, the near-acceptances, and everything in between, sometimes within the span of a day, up and down, up and down, pulled by a string.

I don’t want to steal my friend’s yo-yo metaphor, so I’m going with ping-pong. Before I get to my point, the very image of ping-pong brings to mind an old memory of my father. My mother was in Philadelphia visiting a drummer boyfriend on tour, and my dad was taking care of my brother and me for the weekend. He took us to the now defunct Lechmere (like a Best Buy for those of you too young to remember) and bought us a ping-pong table for the basement of our house.

As he was carrying the box out of the store, he noted that it was surprisingly light and easy to carry. When we arrived home and he opened the box, there was nothing in it. He’d purchased an empty box! Someday when I write more about my father, you might understand the hilarity of that moment, but I am digressing. Note: We did go back to the store and got a heavier box that, indeed, included a ping pong table. We had hours of fun, an unusual experience when my dad was involved. May he rest in peace and play ping pong in the sky, if his heart desires.

The ping-pong I’m talking about now is an emotional one, and one that we can experience in a number of situations. We can experience it romantically, for example, as our emotions go back and forth in our connections to those we love or long for. Since I’m single now and cannot not reveal my true feelings  in the romance department without some  serious ramifications, I will talk about the ping-pong of the writing life — briefly — since I’ve already wasted all these words digressing. But it’s my blog, and I can digress if I want to… (Put that to music, “It’s my party….” etc.)

As some of you know, I have a blog account with The Huffington Post. At first, this was like a dream opportunity — to reach so many people with my posts. My audience expanded quickly with hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, reading my blogs on Huffington. What I didn’t expect, was that sometimes, when I take an unpopular view on a topic, the mean-spirited comments of my readers would crush me. I suppose my posts can be viewed as insulting at moments, although honestly, I didn’t think this particular one was so bad. Yet, I was torn limb from limb.

I said on Facebook (paraphrasing myself): I can’t take this. I’m cancelling all of my engagements, no more writing for awhile.

The very next day, I received an email from an editor at Winged City Chapbook Press that said,  “I’m writing to let you know that your chapbook has been selected for publication!” 

The Last Chapbooks Project
The Last Chapbooks Project (Photo credit: chiwan)

I had entered a chapbook contest a few months back and apparently, I was one of the winners. So, a day after having approximately 250 angry comments on a Huffington Post blog, many of which expressed that I was an awful, mean, and insane person, I get this great news about the chapbook. A writer’s dream: acceptance! And for a book. Okay, a short book, but still a book. The chapbook is a collection of my humorous essays, many of which have been published online, although a few have not been published anywhere. I’m starting to feel a little like David Sedaris. I’m on the ecstatic side of the writing table. Pinging all over the place.

At the same time, the angry comments continued to roll in from the controversial post, which I will not tell you about specifically. I don’t want you to find it. I don’t want to be beat up again. I’m trying to put it behind me. I’ve learned my lesson, at least until I forget it. Ponged back to the other side of the table, where being a writer can hurt because you realize you are not universally loved. Or even loved at all.

A few days later, after the Huffington incident and then the news of the chapbook, Huffington posted another blog that I had submitted on the same day, this one very tame, perhaps slightly lame, about my love for rockers over the age of 50, especially Paul McCartney. The comments that came in were all quite nice for the most part, and I felt partially restored as a respected, likeable presence on Huffington. Ping back to feeling good about being a writer. I will provide the link to that post because it is innocuous, although, I am told, a nice post.

In life, one must develop a thick skin to survive emotionally. It is no less true when you write, or when you let yourself out there to the world bare and honest in whatever you do. Sometimes you will be applauded (ping) and sometimes you will be backhanded (pong). I’m still learning the game as I go.

I’d like to end by sharing one of my favorite Paul McCartney songs and this beautiful live performance from several years back. Thanks for the healing, Paul. xoxo


  1. Cindy, tough skin takes time to develop. Your psyche is like your skin. In order to develop a callus, you have to suffer through painful blisters that eventually burst. But the thick skin that develops after the pain helps protect your body from more damage. People are entitled to their opinions, but you are not obligated to read them. Skim, skip, and delete. Don’t let them become a stone in your shoe.


  2. This sort of reminds me of my time as an Art Major. My least favorite part was the critique, which is even a core part of the 101 classes. I kind of view Huffpo commentators as some of my more negative classmates in the 101 class… they don’t know what the hell they are talking about, but they feel like they should share their expertise anyway. I had the benefit of a few good instructors who would take the negative and shape it into something constructive. If I had been simply painting in a park somewhere and actually listened to the sidewalk critics, I would have tossed my canvases years ago. Unfortunately, the Internet gives all sorts of sidewalk commentators access to our work, and we stand alone in the critique. It isn’t about developing a callous, because I think that hardens something more and makes us less vibrant and enthusiastic about what we create. I think, instead, we need to glance over those criticisms and search out the voices that contribute to positively shape our technique and our pallet. Let them holler, let them froth at the mouth… and know, they only dream of writing as well as you do. Feel free to create a raspberry in the general direction of your screen as you read their words… that is all that they are worthy of.


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