Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Validate My Parking

Writers crave validation.

It's built into our psyches. We believe our words are good enough to put down on paper, and then we have the narcissism to think that others will not only enjoy our words, but pay for the privilege to read them.

Because of that, we tend to get attached to what we write. These words are our babies, and criticism is hard to bear. We take it personally.

This is silly. Everyone has an opinion, and all opinions are valid. Yes, if your writing failed a reader, it's your fault. But your job isn't to enthrall every reader. Your job is simply to enthrall more than you fail.

The fact is, you'll fail some readers. Lots of them.

You'll get bad reviews. You'll get angry emails. You'll get snotty comments. Some will be aimed at your writing. Some will be aimed at you personally.

This is a good thing.

Not because these comments are correct---though if enough people say the same thing, you should really start to listen. But because getting feedback, good or bad, means you're reaching people.

The bigger you get, the more negative feedback you can expect.

So how do you deal with people who don't like you?

If you want to be a grown-up, you should ignore them. I've never seen anything good come out of engaging a critic. Once you begin to defend yourself--or even worse, attack--you've pretty much lost some face.

What Peter says about Paul shows more about Peter than about Paul.

As for how you should feel, well, you should act like a grown up there as well. Sticks and stones. Unless someone is burning a cross outside on your front lawn, you really can't take negative people seriously.

You shouldn't take positive people seriously, either. But you can say "thanks" to those who offer kind words. If you're really grounded, you can thank the naysayers too.

But JA, isn't validation the reason we become writers in the first place? Didn't you read your opening sentence?

Yes. But get your ego boost from your royalty check, not from reviewers, critics, fans, blogs, awards, peers, and message boards.

Then who are the people you should listen to?

That's easy. Turn on your cell phone. Look at your contact list. Those are the important people in your life. Take praise and criticism from them. Everyone else is window dressing.

Some people won't like you. Get used to it. If you can't, don't be a writer.

You're a pompous, egotistical, self-important know-it-all.

Thanks for your comment, and thanks for reading. :)