Wednesday, April 22, 2009

People Pleasing

I am a people pleaser.  Period.  If I can't make all of the people happy all of the time, I go insane and usually go to extremes to fix what I probably couldn't do anything about anyway.  If someone doesn't like me, or something I did, I stew over it for hours.  Even if I don't know the person and even if I don't really like the person.  As a writer, I feel that this personality flaw makes an already uphill climb that much steeper.

I have the first four chapters of my novel posted on a web site for writers and readers who take a look at your work, offer critiques, and if they like it, place it on a virtual bookshelf.  All of this earns you a points standing that's supposed to get you the chance to receive an editorial review, but I've yet to see the benefit pay off for more than a couple of people out of literally thousands.

When I first posted the chapters a few months ago, I got some pretty harsh criticism.  Double ouch!  But-- I took the advice to heart and learned a lot.  I made several revisions and cuts making the end product MUCH BETTER. Since then, most of my critiques have been fairly sugar coated, giving me a needed self-esteem boost and something to smile about.

Last night, my bubble was burst.  The writer that critiqued me offered not much more than a couple of sentences that amounted to:  'Your first chapter is boring and you're never going to hook a reader.'  Well, being that I'm a moody, broody writer with a lot of angst, I snapped into depression mode faster than you can say Anne Rice.  I have a full submission of my MS out right now so you can imagine how I began to panic and second-guess myself.  Even the positive feedback that I'd received wasn't doing anything for me.  Those people who loved my first chapter had to have been lying.  Maybe they didn't even actually read it?  Maybe they just wanted me to give a reciprocal read?  Argh!  I suck!

After my personal pity party (that thankfully no one was home to see) rational thoughts began to resurface.  One, the reviewer was not my target audience. Two, I HAVE had a lot of positive feedback and there's no reason to believe that a perfect stranger would have any reason to lie. Three, YOU CAN'T PLEASE EVERYONE!

There are going to be people that don't like my writing.  That's a fact.  But there are going to be people who love it.  That's a fact.  And as for my submission, well it could go either way, but I'm not going to second guess myself.  I may rack up another rejection, I may get feedback with a request to revise and resubmit.  Or... I may get an offer for representation.  

And even though I'd love to be liked by everyone, I know that I won't be.  And to my people pleasing mind, that may be hard to swallow, but I can't get down every time someone gives me less than shining feedback.  I'll just dust off my ego and smile.  You might not like me, but that's okay.  I like my writing and there are others out there that like it too.  And that's enough.


Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Ugh, that person sounds like an Internet troll. No way would someone trying to sincerely crit your work give a crit that is not only mean-spirited, but so lacking in substance. Unless this person provided specific examples of what they found "boring" or whatever, I think you can safely disregard their comments completely.

Luckily, I think those types of people are the rare exception, and it sounds like you have a good attitude for dealing with the bad apples that are out there!

52 Faces said...

Hello hello! Surfed over from Gumbo Writer.

I was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and while the Vine reviewers liked my work (as did public commentators), Publishers Weekly gave the most harsh, unuseful critique I have ever seen in the history of workshops (and I'm a NYer, where we tell the truth!) It was disappointing and made me wonder if there's truth in the adage that critics are failed artists.

Thanks for this post - I too care what everyone thinks about me. If I didn't I'd probably be a banker or politician and not a writer/dancer/singer.