Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Other People's Children
I was doing my usual blog rounds today, when I got a wonderful reminder about the reality of our artistic passion and our place in the world as writers. Thank you, Rachelle Gardner, for putting things in perspective so succinctly and so clearly. Seriously, folks, how often do you hear yourself saying, "How did that piece of crap get published while my darling masterpiece languishes in a dark drawer along with a flood of rejection letters?" As Rachelle reminds us, art is subjective. And even crap has an audience. Don't you occasional watch crappy TV just for some guilty, mindless pleasure? I totally do...just ask my husband.
I've heard people bash best-sellers (and I'll name no names), but obviously someone is reading them. Yes, we may see it as the last sign of cultural armageddon when what we call junk makes it to the NYT Bestseller list, but as writers we have to face the facts. Not everyone will love our work. To put a finer point on it, we may love our children to depths that we never could have imagined before we had them, but that doesn't mean that everyone wants to be their friend.
How many times have you rolled your eyes when some kid acts up at a restaurant or says something outrageously rude and his parents just laugh and think he's cute? Now think about some of the things your kids do that you find endlessly endearing. Maybe she likes to hug everyone she meets. Great, right? Sweet, affectionate child, right? Who wouldn't love some instant affirmation? Well, Mr. Jones might think she's an annoying, presumptuous child who should keep her hands to herself. Is he a jerk? Maybe. But then again, perhaps he was raised with different standards and different preferences. I happen to like an open, cuddly kid, but not everyone does.
It may be a cliché, but our books are our "rambling brats" as Anne Bradstreet would say. Like our human children, they are born out of love, raised with discipline, and invested with bits of our soul that will bind us to them forever. And doesn't every parent think their kid is brilliant?So when we see something "less worthy" than our own beloved offspring getting all the goods, we take it personally and we cry, "not fair!" But honestly, doesn't that make you love your child (or your book) just a little bit more fiercely?
For that matter, we spend a lot of time teaching our kids that life isn't always fair, but if we give it our best shot, we build character and confidence and ultimately we'll be happier. Stop worrying about other people's children and other writers' books. If we dwell on all those things that we deem "crap" and sit around and whine about how so-and-so didn't deserve to be published, we only poison our mood and waste time that we could be writing.
We nurture our children and make sacrifices without even thinking about it so we can raise bright, secure, amazing people. We should do the same for our writing. Nurture the craft, never stop searching and learning and exploring. Keep looking for opportunities and get to know your audience. And when that masterpiece finally hits the shelves with its beautiful, shiny dust jacket and a host of glowing blurbs on the back, celebrate its birthday and all the accolades that may come along.
BUT, remember that even in all its published glory, your book will not please everyone. So just don't read the negative reviews!