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Reader Rejection


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Reader Rejection

It will happen. Don’t try to run or hide from it, as it is as inevitable as the story itself. Hehehe! But it’s ok. Prepare for it, embrace it, and never ever let it get you down. As writers...we write. It’s what we do. It comes from the heart and it forces us, in many cases, to expose the most vulnerable parts of ourselves to any random stranger that comes along wanting a peek at who we really are on a very deep level. I wish that I could find a way to show readers how taxing and emotionally draining it can be to sit here at this keyboard and write just ONE chapter for them to, hopefully, enjoy. And the worst part is...the only thing that can be more disheartening in failing to achieve any kind of entertaining value in some people’s lives...is actually succeeding to do so.

Let me explain it this way...

Imagine growing up, your mom or dad or guardian (whatever situation you may have been in at that time) would cook dinner or make breakfast for you each and every single day. And you LOVE it! Omigod...this is soooo good! And even though every meal is made with the same amount of love and care and attention...how many times do you really consider that part of the process anymore? How many times do you give your wives or husbands a hug or a kiss on the cheek to say, “Thank you! You did it again!” and make them feel good about it?

We’re all human, and we’re creatures of habit. We get used to things pretty quickly, and it makes us complacent. In other words...it’s easy to spoil us. And a constant string of fun and engaging stories is a lot like oxygen...we take it for granted until we have to go for a few minutes without it. Hehehe! And if you’re an author that is working super hard to put out your best work as fast and as often as you can, that complacency from your audience can be...well...hurtful. At least, that’s been my experience over the years.

I, personally, tend to internalize these things...and it makes me wonder what it is that I’m doing wrong. I would end up trying to work harder or faster or go searching for ways to connect to my readers in a better way to keep them from leaving me behind. I have learned from years of experience that this is a mistake. Don’t do it. If you’re worried about this kind of thing to the point where you allow it to infect your writing process with a pesky virus that is extremely difficult to get rid of once you’ve got it...let me talk to you guys for a few minutes here and maybe help you recognize this kind of behavior for what it is. Once you understand it a little bit better, it might have a less devastating effect on your output and the quality that you’ve been trying to maintain from the very beginning. I hope it raises a bit of awareness and reminds you of why you started writing your stories in the first place. K?

It was Eminem that said, “So skip to the loo while I do what I do best! You ain’t even impressed no more! You’re used to it!” And it’s true. Eminem can absolutely MURDER a rap verse at speeds that would blow your mind! But at this point...you hear somebody say, “Eminem killed it!” And it’s like...”Well, yeah. Of course he did. He’s Eminem.” Which is an honor in itself...but can those folks still truly say that they’re still able to really appreciate what he’s doing with words alone? It’s kind of like those few times when my family members from small town Georgia came to Chicago for the very first time, having never been to a city that big and full of that many people before. They were so SHOCKED that a place like that could exist anywhere except in the movies. Hehehe! And all of those things that I had grown so accustomed to and had usually taken for granted were suddenly highlighted in a major way. It got me excited too. But seriously, to someone who’s never heard Eminem just spazz out for about five minutes...this is mind-blowing. To everyone else, it’s treated with all the hype of a regular traffic accident on a Tuesday.

Listen to this. Seriously, dude? WTF? By the way, in the last 30 seconds of this video...Eminem actually broke the Guiness Book world record for the speed and number of rhymes. Did you know that? A lot of folks don’t.

 

The whole point is...if you put out a consistent amount of quality work on a regular basis, whether it be on one story, or with a variety of different stories...you audience will eventually become numb to it. And this is going to be a test for you as an artist, because it is going to sometimes feel as if you’ve reached your peak, or that you’ve fallen into a slump. Neither one of these things are true. If anything, it’s a compliment...to have brought so many sunshine days and rainbows to your audience that they eventually go unnoticed. Or perhaps even criticized for not bringing them the same ‘high’ that they got when they started reading your work in the first place. It’s something that can’t be done, but unfortunately becomes expected over time. Not marveled at or fully appreciated...just ‘expected’. It can be a hard hit to take sometimes, especially when your passions and emotions are constantly on display.

There will be an urge to push yourself even harder and add a bunch of junk scenarios into your projects that probably don’t belong there, just to create enough of a spark to get them to seem somewhat excited again. I will admit to doing that myself in the past, and you know what? It didn’t do anything to strengthen my story at all. In certain chapters, it actually worked against me and diluted the story as a whole, forcing me to go searching for ways to get it back to what I wanted it to be from the very beginning. You have to be able to see these things for what they are, and somehow weave that into something positive instead of negative. Now...naturally there are always going to be readers who want everything for free, feel entitled to your hard work without ever giving anything back, and just want to stress you out until you’re heading to an early grave...at which point they’ll just move on and find somebody else to bully into doing the same. But one of the major parts of being an effective writer comes from focus, and this is one of those times when your focus needs to be more on what it’s doing for you instead of what it’s doing for others. Get your head in the game and keep your eyes on the prize. Write your story without validation. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to your fanbase, I’m saying that it’s important to understand when their comments (or lack thereof) is more about what they want instead of what you need to make this the best story that you can. The story you started with, and satisfying the ambition you had for it before you began to doubt yourself.

Just keep writing. The idea of reader rejection might just all be in your head, the same way that your subpar performance might be in theirs. Stories are all about ‘connection’. Writer to reader and back again. To folks who don’t write or create stuff like this...they may not really understand what it takes to produce quality work over and over and over again. Hehehe, congratulations...you’ve become Mom’s dinner! They just expect it to be hot and ready whenever they want it, and they expect it to be your best work. Not once or twice...not five times or ten...but EVERY single time! No excuses! And God forbid you fall short of those expectations every now and then. Oh man...people you haven’t heard from in years will suddenly come crawling out of the woodworks to tell you how awful it was! Hahaha! Like, WHAT??? Where the hell have YOU been for the past several years???

Sounds weird, but it happens. And as hard as it is for some folks to deal with the lackluster reactions or the criticism backlash...you have to just stay focused on the original game plan. Easier said than done, I know...but take a few moments to really cherish the work that you’ve put out so far. I, personally, save a lot of emails that really hit a soft spot for me. Just from readers who can really understand and relate to the material that I write online or have found some peace of mind through a few of my stories. When I’m feeling down or insecure about my own abilities, I go back and look at those emails and it’s like chicken noodle soup for the soul, ya know? I think everybody needs a little positive encouragement every now and then. Why not? It’s not just an ‘ego’ thing. It’s just a return on your investment when you pour heart out at somebody’s feet, hoping that they’ll actually care and let you know it. You work hard on your art, don’t you? Doesn’t it feel good to be recognized for it every once in a while? Don’t feel selfish about that. They’re getting free entertainment, life lessons, distractions from real life, and repeated orgasms, at NO cost other than an occasional comment, email, or click of a ‘Like’ button. You’re not in a slump...they’ve just come to a point where they expect excellence from you without having to put forth any effort to get it.

Again...it’s kind of a compliment...but not, at the same time. It’s the pure definition of being both a gift and a curse.

One of the first and best examples of this idea is how people react to Marvel movies these days. Now, I may be heavily biased because these characters and storylines and comic books are what taught me how to write in the first place. Ever since I was old enough to read, comic books were always my number one form of escapism. They were my whole life back then. And now, being able to see these characters and stories on the big screen...it’s like my every dream came true! And I love every single one of the properties that they’ve put out. Like ALL of them! I never get enough! Give me more so I can overdose on the awesomeness! Hehehe! But, like I said...I’m biased. So maybe it’s just me. But even though some movies are better than others, I haven’t been one of those ‘hyperbolic haters’ who act like, “This is the WORST movie I’ve ever seen in my LIFE!!!” Hehehe, really? You’ve lived a pretty privileged life then...because I can point you in the direction of some flicks that never should have been made at all. :P

But that’s the whole point! After billion dollar successes, four or five spots on the highest grossing movies in cinematic history, Oscar worthy actors, top notch directors, great writers, big budget special effects...it’s still not enough. It won’t EVER be enough. Do you realize that with the movies, the TV shows, the Disney+ shows, the animated series, the Netflix extensions, etc...people have gotten nearly FIFTY offerings from Marvel alone? FIFTY!!! That’s insane! It would take any one of you an entire prison sentence for armed robbery to watch them all in a row. 😮

And yet...there are always going to be those people who are looking for them to slip on an invisible banana peel or something and fall from grace. (I can’t, for the life of me, understand why...but they do.) I wrote in one of my stories that it’s easier to say how much you hate something then explain why you love it. And I stand by that. People train themselves to find something wrong in everything the see, hear, read, experience. Liking something is almost seen as a weakness when you openly admit it. Why? We should be cherishing every second of life that makes us smile or uplifts us. But, I guess that’s not cool. So...there will be times when you will be criticized. And times when people really love your story, but can’t even be dragged, kicking and screaming, to say so. They just read it and horde all the good feelings for themselves. Hehehe, whatever. So be it. You know?

But that’s not because of your output, your speed with new chapters, or the quality of your writing. If you leave this article knowing ONE thing...know that. Ok?

Detach yourself from that mindset and keep writing. Don’t toss extra stuff into your story for the sake of sensationalism. Don’t cut anything out to rush through your story. Don’t get buried under the pressure to perform if you just don’t feel like performing that day. This is your work. Your story. Your soul on display. And there will be a million distractions that will be constantly pulling you away from the story that’s in your heart. Don’t let this be one of them.

Sometimes you have to surrender to the fact that what you do will never ever be enough. After a few successes, your work will become Mom’s dinner. Still loved and enjoyed by many, sure. But to say that it’ll be underappreciated at some point would be a huge understatement. “You ain’t even impressed no more! You’re used to it!” It will happen...and this will be a test for you in terms of keeping your passion alive all on your own and keep going. It can feel a bit lonely and unstable at first, but realize this mindset for what it is and try your best to work through it. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re a really good writer, or a really GREAT writer!

I know a lot of folks don’t talk about this kind of thing, but seeing as it has affected me and my own performance a few times over the years...I wanted to share it with everybody. Because it really does affect your work, whether you want to admit it or not. Getting criticism for anything that is less than the astronomical standard that you created for yourself, and then feeling ignored or taken for granted at the same time, can really weigh heavily on your psyche. And it makes it harder for you to remain in touch with your natural instincts and take risks or challenges where they would do your story the most good. There’s nothing out there that can shield you from this part of the process. It’s kind of a ‘work hazard’ when it comes to sharing yourself with the public. Just remember that it’s not your readers’ fault, nor are they trying to make you feel bad. Nor is it always a matter of you losing your gift when it comes to writing. There’s just a disconnect (often temporary) between their expectations and your search for reward or approval. This is why I work so hard to get people to talk to each other and openly express when they like something that somebody else wrote, and to keep in mind how long and how often ‘Mom’s dinner’ has been keeping them going strong. That tiny bit of communication can mean the world to a creator of well written fiction...which only ends up to them being able to write more goodies for the people who crave it so much. So if you love it...say you love it. Otherwise, when the fanbase disappears...the author disappears shortly after. So let’s work to lean on one another, shall we? Hehehe, it’ll only make us both infinitely happy in the long run.

Focus on your story and not the reactions. And occasionally remind yourself of your successes when you feel like you’re not doing enough. Or like people are just waiting for you to slip on that damned digital banana peel just ONCE so they can use that as an excuse to tear down everything that came before it. Nope! :) You’re doing just fine. And if your next story isn’t as epic as the one you wrote yesterday...there’s always tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month. Just focus on being the best writer you can be at all times, and your audience will continue to come back to see what you have to say. Don’t ever sacrifice your voice for the sake of insecurity. You can’t write an impactful story like that. I certainly can’t.

I hope this helps to keep your spirits uplifted when it comes to writing. The articles I post aren’t all about method and mechanics. Being a writer is more than that. And these are the types of mental gymnastics that you’ve got to learn and figure out how to nail the landing so you can get back to doing what you do best. Hehehe, whether they’re used to it or not.

Be their oxygen. Maybe taken for granted, but just as essential for them to breathe whether they appreciate it or not. K?

You’ll do just fine! I’ve got faith in you! Hehehe! Just remember...no matter what, it’ll NEVER be enough. They just want more. And that’s a good thing, right? Remember...Marvel...FIFTY offerings!!! After a decade and a half of solid work...so many characters and intersecting plot lines and engaging themes...the utter audacity of eagerly searching for reasons to expect the impossible or angrily complain just boggles my mind. Fifty offerings, people! FIFTY!!! Who does that? Who CAN do that??? LOL!!! When the critics come knocking...you let them know that they can gain access to your sense of well being and your overworked mind when they can do it better! Period. :)

Happy writing, you guys!

 

 

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Another great post. This part:

 Write your story without validation. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to your fanbase, I’m saying that it’s important to understand when their comments (or lack thereof) is more about what they want instead of what you need to make this the best story that you can. The story you started with, and satisfying the ambition you had for it before you began to doubt yourself.

This is the primary reason why, these days, I don't post a story/book unless it's 100% complete, beta'd and edited. I found that, even if I didn't intend for it to happen, even if I consciously fought against it, my original vision could become skewed by feedback -- whether that was positive or negative. Ultimately, the story changed from what I intended it to be. Whether the end result became "better" or "worse" wasn't really the point. The story was no longer solely my creation.  

Possibly -- probably -- some authors like that. Even thrive on it.  I just never did. Which reiterates how individual each writer's journey is and why posts like the one above are so helpful. Perspective is all. 

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

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This is a great read because I'm sure it's something we all (authors) struggle with. My stories are an investment of my time, my creative energy, personal parts of my life, and so on. So yeah, when people are mean, it sucks. I won't deny it. It's hard to not feel personally attacked since all my stories are personal to me. One thing I've noticed is the comments aren't so much about not liking the writing as how the reader is feeling. It's an emotional response when something isn't going the way they want or a character they love is being hurt. They lash out. Sometimes it's simply a testament to great writing, which will be voiced at the end. 

And sometimes they really just don't like it.

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I think that there is something for everyone to take from this post.

For authors it is wether or not to allow readers to define a writing style, or even how a story should develop. Positive comments should be treasured for what they are, encouragement  and affirmation a story and the hard work invested in it is good and appreciated. Negative comments should be categorised as they do have different meanings. Some comments are constructive criticism and can be valuable as they may be something to learn from and develop our skills and are not necessarily intended to be negative. Other comments, which are usually fewer in number, are just simply negative with little or no value. They are the comments that can be hurtful, in my opinion they should be ignored, especially when the comments indicate trying to tell an author what they should or should not write. When I receive comments like this, yes I do get them, I simply give a polite response and try to move on, I will admit that sometimes I do find them hurtful.

For the reader it is to think about what it is you are trying to say, a poorly worded comment can easily be misunderstood and cause offence when that is not the intention. I find that if I cannot say something positive, or give good constructive criticism, it is better to not say anything as I have no wish to cause offence to an author. If you are not enjoying a story then consider wether or not you should continue reading the the story, if you wish to leave a comment then please carefully consider what you say and how you word it, it is possible that your comment may not come across as you intend it.

 

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Thanks, you guys. And you're right, it's hard to have such a personal connection in creating something and then being told to 'not take it personal'. Easier said than done, right? :P 

Still...I think I'd rather deal with a few negative comments over silence. Silence bothers me much more.

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