One of the great things about posting your writing online is that people will read it.
This is, of course, also a pain in the ass.
When people say nice things about my work–about my ability to write–then the digital broadcast of the stuff is all marshmallow fluff.
Some days I live and die by the kudos, you know, over on AO3.
But when readers don’t like what I’ve written and take the time to make that known, man. Makes me feel like a need a shower, one in which to drown my laptop and save the universe from the crap tentacles of my pen.
Ultimately though, I have a co-dependent relationship with my readers: I need you. Badly. And I hope, once and a while, you might need me, if only for 2500 words or so.
Most my readers, y’all, I’ll never meet; most of you live only, thus, in my imagination. Once my stuff goes up, gets out of my hands and onto someone else’s server, the reader has the upper hand; any status to which I might have pretended as a creator is huff poof boom.
I shouldn’t need anybody’s approval in order to value what I write.
Ok. That’s what I’m supposed to say, anyway. Total bullshit.
Much of my anxiety lies, I think, in my life as a nascent academic, bred into me over decades of institutionalized education in which the “value” of my work (if I even thought of it as mine, for much of that time) lay in its ability to engender, to earn, the appropriately excellent response from the teacher for whom it was written.
Yeah, I know. Poor me.
Look, I’m particularly jittery right now for two reasons:
- I’ve sent in two academic-type things to appropriate professional-y journals and am waiting with baited, fetid breath for the inevitable rejections; and
- I haven’t finished a fic in weeks; thus, I haven’t gotten a fresh hit of reader response, or not. No noveau opportunity for people I don’t know to tell me how bloody brilliant I am. Or what a dolt.
A prof once told me that what’s worse than being criticized is having your work ignored, and I think there’s great truth in that. I am so very grateful and always Tigger bounce shine when readers give me feedback, positive or no, even when it stings; it’s a gift, the time they take to say yay or nay, and at its core, what I love about writing–the way a text written in one place and time and from a particular state of angst or love or fear can resonate for good or ill with someone that I’ll never meet, and that they send a message on to let me know that this so.
Yes, yes they do.
But the thing about a hit is that you’ve always got one eye out for the next, and I think part of me had (has?) this bizarre expectation that by virtue of not sucking at writing at least most of the time, the universe–or at least the fandoms or scholarly fields in which I roll–would celebrate me in some way that involved at least confetti. And maybe a parade.
Hee! I need to manage my expectations, nu?
This. Is. Ridiculous. I know, I know. But still: I let myself feel bad about it, when what I should do is write some goddamn more and put it out there and let the winds fall where they may.
At its best, at mine, I write for myself first. And if that was enough, I wouldn’t post this stuff where other people could see. My own insecurity, now–that’s the real pain in the ass, the one that’s sure to bite me in mine.