Tuesday, February 23, 2010
It Is What They Is
So? Whaddaya think of this Peanuts strip?
If you saw it in the newspaper, would you eagerly await the next installment of what happens between Linus and his blanket-hating grandma? Or would you think it was a waste of ink and paper?
Maybe you didn’t like it because you thought comic strips were supposed to make you laugh and this strip didn’t even make you chuckle. Or maybe you did chuckle, but the four panels also spoke to you on a personal level deeper than a punchline.
Maybe you’ve never liked Peanuts so you began reading this one expecting not to like it, and you were right…again. Or maybe this wasn’t your favorite Peanuts strip, but it reminded you of your childhood so you clipped it out and hung it on the fridge.
Personally, I love Peanuts. I love the way it’s drawn. I love the sometimes gentle, sometimes brutal, sometimes joyful, sometimes heartbreaking humor. I love the choice of words. I just love it!
But I also understand why some people don’t love it.
So here’s where I’m going to help some of you authors who’ve asked me for advice on how to deal with “stumbling across” negative things said about your book online. Even though many people love your book, the words of those who don’t are tearing you up inside.
After Thirteen Reasons Why came out, it took me a looooong time to get comfortable with the idea that not everyone was going to appreciate my book the way I thought it should be appreciated. One person may call it “quite possibly the best book I have ever read” and someone else may call it “a waste of my time.” One person may claim the book made her “treat people better and have more respect for myself” while someone else thinks it contains “no moral value whatsoever.” One person may say her “heart goes out” to Hannah while another person owns a heart which “could not feel any empathy towards her.”
Your part of the author/reader conversation ended the moment you turned in your edits. From then on, the only thing that will change about your story will be the people reading it. Their prejudices, their life experiences, and their understanding of the world will frame every single page they read. Every word! As they read each line of your story, that line essentially disappears from your book and moves into their head. (Scary, I know.) Your brain may have written the story, but their brain is going to interpret it based on however their brain is wired at the moment.
And there’s nothing you can do about it.
When you create a piece of art (a book, a painting, a song), not even one person will grasp exactly what you were trying to say. Art is way too personal for that. But when someone really doesn’t grasp what you were trying to say, well, that wasn’t really the person you created it for in the first place. And those people are out there. And they are going to judge your creation. You don’t have to like that fact, but you’ll be much happier if you get comfortable with it. Trust me!
Good reviews and good press are like security blankets. We shouldn’t really need those pieces of cloth to feel secure. The art is done. It is what it is. It is what everyone else thinks it is. Yes, it’s fine and wonderful to cuddle up with a security blanket sometimes. But this is a yin and yang world. The blanket-haters need to be out there, too. For some reason, taking your blanket makes them feel like they accomplished something.
But they didn’t. You did.