Friday, March 02, 2012
A Thick Skin
In my very first writing group, author Gayle Roper told us that when our submission was discussed by our peers we'd have to remain silent. Why? Because you can't stand over the shoulder of your readers and explain yourself. You can't justify or embellish. Your work has to stand alone.
That's easy to understand in principle, but it's awfully difficult in practice. I just received an email from a reader who, as a health-care professional, took umbrage at one small part of one of my novels. I won't go into detail. Let's just say that it brought up some inequities in the system that she chafed under day after day, and she felt I was painting the medical profession/hospital as the "bad guy." I had no intention to do so, but that's the way she took it. I thought about it for a good while before sending a return email indicating that wasn't my intention and apologizing if she found the way I'd handled the situation distasteful. I don't know if I'll ever hear from her again, but I took her complaint to heart. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try and how skillfully we edit, sometimes our writing is going to hit a reader the wrong way.
Every one of my books, my website, and my blog all carry my email address. I encourage my readers to communicate. Many of the emails I get are from readers that like my books. Fortunately, emails like this recent one are more rare. But you know what? I pay as much--maybe more--attention to the complaints as I do to the compliments. I'll never satisfy everyone, and if I tried, I probably would never get more than a page written. Nevertheless, it helps to periodically be introduced to the reality that you can't please all the people all the time.
Have you ever communicated to an author your displeasure at something he/she wrote? Why, or why not? I'd be interested in hearing.