There's an old proverb out there, and I'll have to paraphrase as I don't remember it word for word...but it says 'the Sun doesn't enjoy its own brightness. The river doesn't drink its own water. The tree doesn't eat its own fruit. And living without giving...isn't really living.' As a writer, I really do believe in that. Being able to create something out of nothing and then share it with people who really enjoy and relate to it brings me a lot of joy. That's my way of giving to my readers. And the more they love what I do, the more inspired I am to give them even more. But...there is one part of the process that I have to admit that I truly FAIL at when it comes to giving something back. And that's why I thought it was important to approach the topic this time around.
So, let's talk about feedback.
When it comes to writing, it takes a lot of thought, time, and energy to pull off a completed story. Or even a single chapter, for those of us who write in a 'serial' fashion. It can be emotionally draining at times. But every now and then, the payoff for all of your hard work is more than worth it. Sometimes I get an email from a new reader finding my work for the first time, a dedicated reader who's been with me for years, or some young teen who's still struggling to find their place in the world...and their love and support really touches me. I feel a wave of satisfaction just knowing that my words were able to reach out into the ether somewhere so other people can have access to it...and they took the time to reach back to say thank you. There's no greater reward than that, in my opinion. No amount of money could ever compete with that feeling of connecting with someone else's humanity, simply by expressing my own.
However, I do write an awful lot...and I don't read nearly as much as I used to. I simply don't have enough hours in the day to catch up anymore. And one thing that I definitely want to get better at is giving praise to my fellow authors when they totally deserve it. I have read some really amazing stories on nifty and here on GayAuthors and on Jeffsfort...but I haven't really taken the time to send a personal email with my comments about the kind of genius that these authors are putting out on a regular basis. I mean, when it comes to well written stories, plots, and characters...I'm a fan too! I don't get to talk to people individually often, so I seem a bit isolated at times. And I don't want to play 'favorites' where I'm commenting on this person's story, and not that person's story. But I really hope to correct that in the near future and give more feedback when I'm enjoying someone else's hard work. I definitely do what I can to promote as many talented authors as I can and give them the attention they deserve, but I think I could take a more personal approach and send more comments and reviews when given the opportunity. I think it's important.
You see...we, as readers, are the cheering section. We are the fuel that a writer uses to keep going and maintain interest in the stories we love and get all wrapped up in. Without our input, some of the best stories that we've ever read could end up fizzling out right before our eyes. I can't tell you how many times over the years I've had people talk to me in email, or post on the Comicality Library, trying to get them to tell their story and share their experiences and really GO for it...but gave up on their projects due to a lack of response from readers. And, believe it or not, I've even had readers come back to contact me months or even years later, asking about 'that one story' and what happened to the author. Well...you ignored him/her the whole time they were writing, so what do you think happened? You're the fuel. You didn't take a few seconds to let them know what you felt about their story...so they quit. And now...we all lose out. Hehehe! What did they expect?
Again, I'm definitely guilty of doing this myself. And I need to get better at giving my thoughts when I read something that I think is awesome. Or even to give some constructive criticism when I think the story has major potential, and can be even better if the author tweaks a few details here and there. It really helps an author out to know that they have an audience that's paying attention and appreciating the effort that they put in. I speak from experience when I say...sometimes it just plain sucks to look at one of my chapters on GA, and in the first 48 hours...it has 300 views...and 2 comments. I mean, I appreciate the 2 comments, for sure...but that means that 298 people RUSHED over to read the story the second they got the notice (They were THAT hyped for it!), but when they finished? No comments. No hitting the 'like' button. No email. Nothing. Just 'gimmee gimmee gimme' and 'gobble gobble gobble' and then they roll over and go to sleep. Gee, thanks. Glad that at least ONE of us got something out of this! Hehehe!
Imagine performing on stage in front of crowd of 300 people, dancing or acting or playing music, whatever...and when you were done...TWO people clapped for you. Two...out of 300. Yeah, sometimes that's what it feels like. And authors need that from time to time. Nothing much. Nobody is asking you to share your life story or write complicated stanzas of poetry. No one is asking you to get down on your knees and bow and scrape at the feet of a writer, or spit shine their shoes from a place of total submission. Just be, like...'Hey, I really liked this story. Thanks.' Or, 'Wow. That was cool.' That's it. Thirty seconds worth of typing at the end of a chapter can really do WONDERS for the writers that you truly love. Don't just think it in your head. Let them know. Say it out loud. Leave a comment. Hit a 'like' button. It's an important part of the symbiotic relationship between writers and readers. Don't be greedy and make this a one way street. We should all feel compelled to do our part, you know?
I want to give an example that may help to demonstrate the feeling that an author gets when people are actually participating in the process of sharing their work and expressing themselves in the hopes to be understood and appreciated...
Over the past year, since the pandemic and all, going out to movie theaters hasn't really been much of an option for a majority of us. And that sucks, because I still love going out to the movies. I love the 'energy' that's provided by being in a crowded room with people who came out to have a good time. I love laughing with them, cheering with them, gasping with them, jumping during horror flicks with them...it's so different than just watching a movie at home on a streaming service. Or, even worse, watching it by myself on my laptop screen. I think this is the best way to describe the difference between a writer having an audience and a constantly participating source of feedback, over a writer who keeps putting out material without much outside support.
This is the final battle scene from the "Avengers: Endgame" movie (Spoiler warning, if you haven't seen it yet), and it is one of THE most badass, most amazing, most hardcore cinematic superhero throw down scenes in movie history! Watching this in the theater for the first time, I couldn't even mentally process what the hell I had just seen! Jaw dropping! Jesus! Go ahead and click the video below, even if you've seen it before, and just imagine what it must have been like, and how much hard work went in to filming, choregraphing, and creating, this whole scene! Editing it, adding the soundtrack, incorporating all of the characters, and just making it such a mind-blowing experience for everybody watching!!!
When anyone pours that much heart and passion into their craft...they want us to notice. I mean, wouldn't you? It's not an ego thing. Creative minds just don't want their efforts to feel so...thankless. You know? And if you're getting a million dollar paycheck to write stories online, well...then at least you have a decent incentive to keep writing more. But if it's just a hobby or something that a writer does to clear the cobwebs out of their head on occasion and share it with the rest of us? The ONLY thanks they get comes from us actually saying the words 'thank you'. That's it. Nothing else. We're the only thing keeping those fires burning. And if we don't openly support what we love...it withers on the vine. Imagine how many awesome stories we've all missed out on because we didn't say something to the author when we had the chance to. I've read some really amazing stories that got abandoned because nobody stepped up to support them. And, like I said, that's a loss for all of us.
Reading these stories is like tending a garden. If you feed it, fertilize it, cultivate it...it'll grow. If you neglect it and never pay it any attention...well, what did you expect the result to be? Support the things that you love! Why not? Too tired? Too busy? Too shy? What is it? What's the excuse? Do you have any idea how many gay story websites were out there when I first started writing? I couldn't even keep track of the number. And I'm one of very few sites that has outlasted them all over the years. And NONE of that could have been possible if it wasn't for the comments and friendships that I've made since then. I would have burned out a decade ago if it weren't for the support of my readers, and I try to give thanks to them every chance I get. And I think ALL writers need that kind of encouragement when the have the courage to bare their feelings to an invisible audience and are looking for some kind of validation for their efforts.
Now, I want to show you the SAME "Avengers: Endgame" clip from above...but this was filmed in a theater on opening night. This is with the audience's participation, experiencing this epic moment for the very first time. This is what it feels like when a writer puts their heart and soul into their work, and actually gets to see and hear what the reaction is to their efforts...
Hehehe, are you smiling? I mean, do you see the difference in the intensity of the energy provided by having an audience that is really enjoying themselves? Compare that to what you felt in the first video. That's all our favorite authors want from us. Nobody puts in all of that hard work without expecting at least a little bit of appreciation. And we are all working on our own projects, and that's totally understandable...but every once in a while...give someone a wink and a nod and a little applause for their efforts. Seriously. Imagine if only two or three people in that entire audience was openly having fun while everybody else was stubbornly remaining silent. Not as cool, is it?
Bottom line, as readers, we are the messengers of appreciation to every writer who ever sat at their keyboard and created these fantasies for us to enjoy. And as fellow writers, we can consider ourselves colleagues, which has an even more meaningful impact. They deserve our attention. Where are the 'likes'? Where's the support? Where are the donations? Where are the comments? Where are the recommendations? We have time to read the stories, but suddenly don't have time to say thanks when we're finished? It's something that I definitely want to change about myself, and I hope I can bring some others into the trenches with me. Give a few ratings. Send a few emails. Spread the word to your friends. Because, when we stay silent, we end up discouraging the very people that we claim to love so much for their work from ever creating any more content for us ever again. And it's too late to complain when those talented writers have given up and moved on to other things.
Our feedback gives writers the passion to keep going. It allows them to finish their projects, it gives them the confidence to stretch out and challenge themselves, and it is the best way to maintain our garden. So don't be stingy with your support. Give them some love. It doesn't have to be every day, or every month even...just...once in a while, send them a message to say, "Hey, thanks for the stories! I really enjoy them!" That's it. Don't let more talent go unnoticed and fade away because you couldn't find thirty seconds to say something positive about something they wrote. K?
That's it for this round! Hope it gave you guys some food for thought! It certainly did for me, and I want to improve on giving comments more often myself. So, please don't think that I'm preaching! Hehehe! I'm probably more guilty than you are when it comes to giving feedback. But I'm working on it! Promise!