The Friendliest Part of Me

Here’s a secret: you don’t actually care what anyone else thinks about your work. I know you think you do. I know your day has been ruined by what one person said or wrote about your stories or poems, and I know that another day brightened the moment you learned that someone liked what you’d written. I know you share your work with your writing group, or your editor, or beta readers to find out what they think of it. I know how anxiously you read your Amazon reviews or your New York Times reviews. I know all the time and energy you’ve spent wondering and worrying about what other people think of your work – but the truth, the final truth, the only truth is that you don’t actually care and never have. You don’t care because you know it doesn’t matter. It can’t matter. Those other people don’t live where your writing occurs, which is a friendly place within you accessible only to you. You want to share what you find there. Because others can’t see or hear or know this place, you have to translate what you find there into words. Sometimes people understand the translation. Sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, you can try to retranslate it. Or not. It’s up to you.

So it can be a little helpful to know whether other people understand your translation; translation is imprecise, to say the least. But it is not even slightly helpful to know what other people think about it. It is not helpful to know how your story reminds them of their ex-husband, or that they prefer it when characters use smaller words. It is not helpful to know how they would have written it, or what they believe your story says about the human condition. It is not helpful to know any of the thousands of thoughts that cross another person’s mind when they read your story. Those are none of your business and they cannot help you tell your stories.

It is very uncomfortable to try to make myself care about something I don’t really care about. It seems as though the only way to control what another person thinks about what I have written is to care what they think; that if I take very seriously what another person thinks, the next time I write something I will write it in such a way that I will already know what everyone – I mean absolutely everyone – already thinks about it and thereby not suffer the misery of waiting to learn and having to make myself care all over again. It is as exhausting as it is distressing. Because I don’t care and never have and neither do you, and remembering this is the friendliest way I know to share something I found in the friendliest part of me.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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