I love compliments on my writing. It makes my day to know I’m doing something that impacts people in a positive way. As an artist, that feedback closes an important loop…
I write and release something I’ve created into the world. Someone finds it and brings it back to me with a story of how they found it and what they experienced and, if I’m fortunate, how they shared it with someone else. The words I wrote return to me and journey farther into the world, made precious because of the connection made to another human soul.
But there is one compliment I refuse to take. One that actually angers me and makes me want to walk off, even though I am the one receiving the praise. It goes something like this:
“I love your writing! You’re so much better than <insert another author’s name here>.”
This is not a compliment to me. Even if someone thinks they are doing me a kindness by comparing me to someone published and/or famous, the words stick like a barb under my skin. It’s worse if the person to whom I am being compared is a friend or a writer I admire because I am vested in their success. The pie really is big enough for everyone to have a piece.
The work writers do is difficult and requires more than readers will ever know. When we write, we are wrestling with our hopes for our project and the fear that our inadequacies will not measure up to the task. We struggle to find and accept our voices. We put our dreams and skills and viewpoints down on a page and send it out into the world knowing that it will be judged subjectively by the majority of the people who pick it up. We steel ourselves against the opinions and the trolls, carefully guarding ourselves against the rejection and self-doubt that can cripple our creativity. We balance all the same mundane things in life while carving out time to go off by ourselves and commune with something only we can see. And then we are often ridiculed and patronized for doing so. We fight our bad habits daily, learning to measure progress in something other than the almighty dollar or immediate recognition.
In other words, it’s bloody tough.
So please, if you like what I write, tell me why you like it. Tell me the techniques I used that made it hard to put the book down. Share your favorite characters and scenes. Conspire with me and let me know you picked up on the symbolism I threw in there so we can geek out over the same subliminal language. Cosplay one of my characters and come take a picture with me so I can show you off. It’s ok to say I’m your favorite author — but leave it there.
Because if the pedestal you’re putting me on is the work of another author, I’d rather keep my place on the ground.