There’s been an interesting discussion going on in an online group I belong to. Normal discussion threads run hot and heavy with Impostor Syndrome, Brain Weasels, and the like. But this one started being about short fiction goals and migrated into how shockingly cool and inspiring and awesome it is to receive reader feedback on a story you wrote. That it feels validating in some deep way.
One participant, Shane Halbach, took the next step and connected the two ideas into one amazing gestalt, and he’s allowed me to quote him here:
Sometimes it feels silly, like “well of course this author knows this is a good story — it is amazing and published in this pro zine after all — so it’s stupid of me to tell them so!” or “oh this author is an old pro who’s been doing this forever, so they’re probably totally over it.”
And then I come over to Codex and we all talk about our brain weasels. There’s some kind of break between me in author mode and me in reader mode. I mean, I know how it feels on the receiving end and can you imagine someone messaging you to tell you they liked your story and being annoyed by that?? Never.
So now I make an effort to drop a note to someone whenever I really enjoyed a story. Not every story, but anything that I truly enjoyed.
After reading this, I sat there stunned, waiting for the reverberations within me to fade so that I could process this. I mean, it sounds so simple, so obvious: I’ve had more than my fair share of brain weasels–those nasty, vicious thoughts that tell you how bad this story you’ve written is, how bad a writer you are–and I know they are devastating. I’ve also read stories that have made me think “OMG, that is soooooo beautiful and amazing.” And I’ve read threads on this writers’ site where some writers talk about how nervous they are at the reception of a forthcoming story, or how they fear that it’s garbage and they just got lucky–whatever. I’ve even felt that way myself.
And yet it never dawned on me to send a note to a writer, telling them how wonderful I found that story or book. I can tell you one thing: I will be doing that more often now. In this interconnected age of ours, it’s easier and faster than ever to say something nice to someone, but so often the only messages relayed are anger or annoyance. I’m hoping to change that, to brighten someone’s day who has brightened mine by their written words. I hope you’ll join me.
Just to be clear, this is not a plea for all of you to tell me how awesome my stories are. If something I wrote (or write in the future) really affects you, sure, by all means, let me know. Of course I’d love to hear it. But I’d love just as much for you to tell other writers, other authors, that something they wrote meant a lot to you. Leave a comment on a blog or Facebook page, Tweet them, email them. Even a nice comment on the publication’s “comment” section is good.