by | July 6, 2020 | General | 6 comments

 By Ashley Lister

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

This opening stanza, from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’, is one of my favourite pieces of poetry. Kipling has in recent years been described as a jingoist, misogynist, colonialist and racist, and I’m not going to defend any of those accusations here. Indeed, as Kipling wrote the words ‘a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke’ (from his poem ‘The Betrothed’) I don’t think I’d know where to start defending him other than with a plea for insanity.

But ‘If’ is a different poetic beast compared to ‘The Betrothed’. Admittedly it’s sexist: the final line assures us that this is advice given to a male child – and the implication is that female children don’t merit the gravitas of such wisdom. But if we overlook that misogyny (and as a male member of the ruling patriarchy, I feel justified in overlooking that piece of misogyny) ‘If’ can be seen as a poem that advocates the power of self-reliance.

The reason why I’m mentioning this is because I’ve had several people ask me what it takes to become a writer. I’ve offered the platitudes of the usual responses: a love of language, determination, imagination, a transaction-based sexual relationship with someone who works for a publishing house. However, the thing I think that most writers need to succeed is balls.

Writers need balls the size of Space-Hoppers, but made from the sturdiest and most resilient cast iron available.

This is not me simply trying to suggest that writers are courageous. (Although, we are). I’m saying that writers need to be confident and courageous. And, when those voices of doubt creep in from our own subconscious, or sometimes from the less salubrious corners of the internet, we need to have the balls to turn a deaf ear to unwarranted criticism.

A while back, under one of my pseudonyms, I wrote a trilogy of erotic vampire stories. The books did quite well and, as the rights have recently reverted to me, I’ve decided to publish them on Amazon. I mention this because it explains how I happened upon a review that began and ended with the following words:

“Please understand-this book is one of the worst things I have ever read […] Please don’t read this, you’ll lose IQ points and dry up like the desert.”

Hurtful – yes. Justified – I suppose, if the review writer thought that, then it was entirely justified form that person’s perspective. But how, as a writer, am I supposed to continue after reading a review like this? It would be easy to tell myself that the reviewer was correct and decide that writing is not an appropriate outlet for my creativity. But then, that would also mean I was ignoring reviews such as this one:

“The plots are uncomplicated, but keep the reader guessing. The writing is evenly paced, and balanced. Alluring and provocative- an erotic tour de force that really is, very sexy.
Highly recommended.”

Reviews like this are a boon to every writer. Reviews like the previous one are necessary because not everyone is going to like the same sort of thing. If you read something that you think stinks, it’s only right that you should give your honest opinion.

But, as a writer, it’s a challenge to read such scathing criticism and then get back on the metaphorical horse to write again. As Cher once told us, “Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes.” So, to answer the perennial question of ‘What does it take to be a writer?’ I repeat my earlier response and say ‘balls’.

You need to have the balls to keep your head when all around are losing theirs and blaming it on you. You need to have the balls to trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowances for their doubts too.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a writer!

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. eye

    I think i needed to read this today. Thank you!

    • Ashley Lister

      We can spend enough time beating ourselves down, without letting others do it. I’m glad this helped x


  2. Jean Roberta

    Kipling’s advice is still useful if a reader can rewrite the last line, as you did. 🙂

    • Ashley Lister

      I’m in the lucky position where I can read his work and not feel personally affronted by it, but it’s still hard going some times 🙂


  3. Lisabet Sarai

    Well said, Ashley!

    I still cringe when I remember one of my earliest reviews, where the reviewer called my hero “cheesy”!

    There’s a song by the group Quarterflash that I’ve always loved, which has somewhat the same theme:

    “Oh, sooner or later, you’re gonna catch heat
    There’s no use running away
    Everything hurries to eat or be eaten, they say
    Oh, Papa was right, nothing rates higher
    The coolest of cool is grace under fire”

    “Papa” being, I believe, “Papa” Hemingway.

    • Ashley Lister

      Self-belief is more important nowadays than it’s ever been before, because it’s so easy for people to bring us down.

      I just found this review on one of my titles: “This was one of the worst pieces of writing I have had the displeasure of reading in the last… well, ever. Repetitive to a fault. Cliffhangers that aren’t. Some passages were read hot, but then there was plenty of boring and monotonous rest of the book.”

      It’s not very flattering, and I’m genuinely saddened that someone didn’t enjoy my story, because I know it takes a lot of time to read something and it’s never good to feel that you’ve wasted your time. But I believe in the truism that opinions are like arseholes: every body has one, and most people’s stink 🙂

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


Babysitting the Baumgartners - The Movie
From Adam & Eve - Based on the Book by New York Times Bestselling Authors Selena Kitt



Pin It on Pinterest