Yes, this post is going to be about writers, how they suffer, and how cruelly they are mistreated.
Is it going to be slightly sarcastic? Probably.
Over the past weeks, me and some fellow writers swapped stories about how it was kind of weird that it was easier for us to find comfort in each others’ arms than in the arms of our next of kin or best friends, especially since most of us knew each other only from the Internet and had never met in person.
One said, that since we’ve all read at least part of each others’ books, we’ve seen a glimpse of each others’ souls. Which I thought was beautifully put, quite poetic and…true. Because, the disclaimer notwithstanding (you know, the part where it says, ‘This is a work of fiction. All resemblances, blah, blah, etc., entirely coincidental.’), you can’t help putting something of yourself on the pages. You spend so much time, love, energy, you pour your soul out. Literally.
So when you go and ask someone else to read your pathetic scribblings, what you really do is, you hand them your soul on a silver platter. Other writers know that, and will react accordingly.
Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about mutual praise, and giving each other the recognition we feel we deserve, but a harsh and begrudging world denies us. Most of us aren’t entirely deluded, and are quite aware that we aren’t all that special just because we’ve managed to write a couple of coherent lines. It’s about recognizing the vulnerability, and dealing with it.
Imagine this. You’ve told someone you’d read his book. Whether or not you really meant it at the time, just said it on a whim, to get rid of those puppy eyes or whatever, the writer will remember your promise, and will wait for you to say something soon. Or soonish. Or months later. Or next Christmas. He/she, damn it, I’m gonna stick to he now, here’s to you, political correctness, he will wait.
Now you don’t say a word. He will start to fidget. Didn’t you like it? You probably hated it. That’s why you’re not saying anything. You want to spare him an ugly truth. He won’t remind you, because all that self-marketing is already tearing him up inside, when all he ever wanted was to write a good story, and for that damn book to sell itself, and he really doesn’t want to be a nuisance, but he can’t stand seeing you and not knowing what you think. So chances are, he’ll distance himself. See less of you, in order to not be reminded that you still have a part of his soul, which he can’t live without.
And then, months later, in some random conversation, you’ll drop something like, yeah, it’s actually quite good. He’ll look at you, incredulous, and say, how can you know, you’ve never read it? And you’ll be all confused and offended, and answer, why, of course, I did, months ago! His jaw will drop, and he’ll burst out yelling, why didn’t you say anything?
And this is where you’ll make the ultimate mistake. You’ll say, oh, I forgot.
Punch to the fragile stomach! Six-foot lance through the brittle heart! I gave you my soul, and you forgot!
Because, you see (and I’m totally stealing from Jerry Herman here), we don’t want praise, we don’t want pity. We want your thoughts. We can live with you criticizing the hell out of our precious baby. Tell us that you hated it. Tell us that it absolutely sucked (preferably tell us why you think that). But tell us.
Of course, if you accidentally loved it, even better.
We all need our pink happy moments.