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!



  1. It's so true, our books are like our children that we send out into the world. We want everybody to like them!

  2. "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." Beautiful, Mary Ann. Thank you!

  3. I couldn't agree more. It is really easy to feel indignant that "bad books" are being published when our wonderful gems are not. But of course we're all a little biased when it comes to our own writing,and as you say, everyone has their own preferences.

  4. I saw this on Verla, hope you don't mind me barging in.

    I've gotten emails such as, "I write as well as you, and I'm still not published..." and I never know how to respond to that.

    On the other hand, I tried reading Twilight and I thought...what am I missing?

    You make good points...nice blog!

  5. Thanks, everyone.

    Anne, I can't believe someone would actually say that to you! I wouldn't know how to respond, either! And yes, I've heard those comments about Twilight many times, though I haven't actually taken a look at it yet. (BTW...you're not barging in, so stop by anytime :) )

    We can't help reacting to things like that and we all make comparisons. The key is that we don't get so caught up in them that we lose sight of why we are writing in the first place. It's not a competition, it's a vocation...a calling...a burning, artistic desire.


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