“You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”
It’s a quote most of us have heard at one time in our lives or another, isn’t it? I’ve always known deep down it was true, but never really felt that truth until I started writing. Have you ever let anyone read your work? Ever steered someone toward your blog? Or ever had a book go out on submission?
I’d say almost all of us have done the first two and many have done the third. How do you feel when you know someone is reading what you’ve worked on for so many weeks, months, years? When someone is reading a blog post that you meant to be funny but suddenly you realize they might not laugh at it? When an editor has your book in their hands, reading it with the most critical of critical eyes?
It’s like being naked in the middle of the Super Bowl or something, isn’t it?
Letting someone else read your writing makes us so vulnerable, so exposed, that sometimes it’s too terrifying to even follow through with. You might start a blog post, chicken out, and never publish it. You might finish a manuscript and then let it sit there for a year before you let someone take a peek at it. You might get rejected by every editor who reads your book (not that I would know anything about that, of course) (oh wait, YES I DO) and become tempted to never ever try for publication again.
Fact: Some people out there will love your work and read everything you put on paper until the day one of you dies.
Another fact: Other people will randomly send you hate mail and/or tell you that you are a big fat loser and you’ll spend days on end trying to figure out why they spent that kind of energy on you if they don’t want anything to do with you.
Still another fact: Everybody will love one thing you write, and then everybody will hate the next thing.
Well, that first fact really was encouraging. One thing I’ve learned in the 2.5 years I’ve been attempting to become a (traditionally) published author is this: You have to write first for yourself, then for the people who will love your work, and never for anyone else.
You do not write to please the critic who tore your short story to shreds. You do not write to please the blogger who said your character development was the worst thing they’d ever seen. You do not write to please the editor who said they didn’t identify with your protagonist enough. And you absolutely do not write for the nutjob who, without ever meeting you in person, decides you’re the antichrist.
Because you know what? There will ALWAYS be those people. Always, always, always.
Yesterday at school (I am a high school teacher, if you didn’t know) I ate lunch with three girls who have been involved in my publishing journey almost from the start. They bought The Clearing the second it came out, brought it to school, asked me to sign it, made me feel like a celebrity. They wanted to have lunch in my room yesterday just so they could ask me questions about how I wrote it, what kind of changes the plot went through, how I thought of certain elements.
They made me feel like JK Rowling.
And you know what? Those are the girls I’m writing for. Them, and all the other people in the world who love the stories I create and put on paper for their entertainment. I’m not writing to impress anyone anymore. I’m done. I’m writing for me and for anyone who wants to escape into my imaginary worlds.