A Meerkat Rants: Eff you, I’m not neurotic.

So, the past few months I’ve been waiting (waiting, waiting) for someone in NY to get back to me on not one but two items I need, before I can get to work.  Which has been…making me slightly cranky.  And then I had someone ask me – relatively politely, all things considered, why writers even bother reading Goodread/Amazon reviews, if it makes us so crazy?  Why do we need to know what other people think, if we were satisfied with what we did?

And I had a pretty good response to that, that was measured and also relatively polite, and then I realized that the question was actually based in a bit of bullshit that’s always pissed me off.  And so I decided to rant, instead.

Here’s the thing.   This whole “needy writer in need of validation” thing is bullshit.

I mean, ignoring the fact that you read reviews because feedback is good no matter what you’re producing, and would you ask car manufacturers to not read owner reviews to see what could be improved/fixed?  You would not, fuck you very much.  There’s this idea people seem to have that creative types are gagging for approval, that we all into a slough of despond without it, that we’re delicate, needy and neurotic creatures

(Also: fuck you very much, Woody Allen.  Your messed-up brain is YOU, not all writers, don’t tag us in your meme.)

But it’s out there now, this “Oh, creative people, always needing validation” meme, as though the need for validation is somehow a special snowflake thing reserved for us.  Like we spend every day of our lives whimpering because we din’t get enough love and attention when we were seven, or something.

Fuck you and the Freud you rode in on.

Here’s the thing, okay?  And listen up, because next time I say it it’s going to be with sharp pointy knives.

Most people, we go to school or work 5 days a week, and get validation on a regular basis – a good grade or a ‘good work’ or just simply not being fired.  The paychecks keep coming. Clients come back to you, or you earn a bonus: BOOM. You know you did good.

Hell, performers get the immediate feedback, either from their director or a live audience.  They know, and can adjust on the fly if they’re not getting the response they hoped for.

Writers? We get validation when a project is acquired, yeah.  That’s the big hit – it’s getting hired for that job you always wanted, or acing your final exams.  You can breathe.  Except that’s it. Then we go into the long fallow period.  We may (or may not) get validation when a thing comes out. We may get validation when we get feedback from an agent or editor or valued crit partner – but those things are not only not-daily, you can sometimes go for months without hearing from anyone (see opening paragraph of this rant).  The rest of the time?  We’re in a little isolation booth, with no idea if someone is enjoying what just came out, if someone will want the thing we’re working on, it the last thing we published will be the last thing we ever publish…. 

So hell yes, we will ask for feedback and validation on our work, once it’s out there. So would you. Nothing about neurosis: that’s basic human need.

And next time someone jokes about me checking book reviews, I’m going to suggest they tell their boss that they don’t need to get any feedback on their work, up to and including their yearly review, or that they don’t need to know what scores they got on their papers/exams – it’s not like you need to know if you’re failing or passing that course, right? 

Needing feedback is not neurosis.  It’s situational awareness.

And fuck ‘em if they say that’s not the same.  It’s exactly the same.

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About Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne is a recovering editor-turned-novelist, with an Endeavor Award, a Nebula nomination, another Endeavor award nomination and a Washington State Book Award nomination under her belt. Her most recent series is the award-winning "Devil's West" trilogy, starting with SILVER ON THE ROAD, and her same-universe story collection, WEST WINDS' FOOL, AND OTHER STORIES OF THE DEVIL'S WEST. The novella GABRIEL'S ROAD will be published by Book View Cafe on April 30th, 2019. Her Patreon, featuring original fiction, writing advice, and original Rants, is at https://www.patreon.com/LAGilman Learn more at www.lauraannegilman.net, where you can sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

Comments

A Meerkat Rants: Eff you, I’m not neurotic. — 7 Comments

  1. I just bought West Wind Fool (through Kobo) and enjoyed reading it. I liked your entire Devil’s West series a lot.

    I was a bit doubtful starting it, as the Vineart trilogy became too dark for my tastes, but I enjoyed the Devil’s West enough to both keep buying what you write in that universe, and to give another of your series a try. I think I’ll start with the Sylvan investigations novellas, unless someone has a better idea?

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

      I’d say, starting with the novellas is probably a good idea – the Portals duology does take a turn for the dark (tho there is a bittersweet-but-positive ending), and that way you can decide (or not) to go on to the 10 novellas set in that world as well.

      If you’re looking for something slightly fluffier, the mysteries written under the name L.A. Kornetsky might be to your taste?

  2. A hearty amen to this. Everyone seems to think that once your book is out, it’s nothing but fanmail and reviews in major media. It gets to the point that I’m excited about negative reviews, because at least someone demonstrably read the book!

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  4. Okay, you wanted some feedback, even if it’s not all positive. Normally I don’t say anything that’s not positive, as I don’t want to discourage anyone from writing – anything they write might be something I’ll enjoy. But in this one instance, I’ll say not just what I enjoyed but what I missed – if you don’t want to read anything that’s less than completely encouraging, or don’t want anything that hints at what one of the Sylvan Investigations novellas is about, don’t read the next bit, as I can’t be this specific without mentioning people in the story.

    I’m reading the third Sylvan investigations novella now. I got the first two out of order because they weren’t numbered, and I thought their titles referenced the Robert Frost poem (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42891/stopping-by-woods-on-a-snowy-evening) and so I read them in that order.

    S

    P

    O

    I

    L

    E

    R

    S

    That probably worked better for me anyway, because the second ended on a bit more positive note with the baby rescued (but from what/who?), though I’d like to have heard that the father was recovering in hospital, and not ending up dying as the second protagonist felt he was going to.

    I like the voice (tone? style? please excuse me if I don’t use the correct words here, as I’m not a writer and English is my second language) the stories are written in, and I like the protagonists and their interaction, and the development of the young woman.

    The world seems on the edge of too dark for my tastes, especially if you follow up all the dangling strings of nastyness left open when the novella’s central resolution is reached. Personally, I prefer a bit more positive resolutions to some loose ends, but considering the setup I’m afraid any resolutions of remaining loose ends might turn out very dark indeed, and not just regarding that dreadful freak show and carnival.

    The first story I read left me with all these dangling questions, even though it didn’t quite end with just “We survived, so that’s done” (like the second I read did, to my mind); but still it leaves me unsure of trusting this writer’s resolutions to come out in a way that will give me closure and not leave a bad aftertaste. I generally need some hope for a more positive future for the people specific to this story, to end a story on. I’ll read these four novella’s, but I’m still unsure if I want to invest myself into reading more in this world. We’ll see after these four are done.

    I don’t mind some unresolved issues, but here almost all the important questions remain open. Who had the baby? What was going on with all the instantly moving the baby around as soon as found? Why do you think the solution is better than the situation she was in – as we don’t know what situation she was in, apart from dad’s second thoughts at the end, we only have aggressive grandpa’s opinion, and no clue what that was based on. What happened to mom, and why wasn’t she welcome back with her family? That doesn’t sound like a very welcoming environment for her child to me; or did they know she was dead? If so, did they kill her? If so, what’ll they do with the child? Does dad survive, does his wife get any resolution? Do they get any access to the child? They sound like people who might help keep an eye on what’s best for her, and the child is half-human, and only one quarter of each of her mom’s parents…

    I understand life is messy, you never get all the answers, but this is a bit much for me to feel contented with the resolution of the story. If there’d been just two small personal things tied up satisfactorily at the end, namely their client seeing her husband in the hospital, badly hurt but slowly mending; and the baby’s mother’s clan warmly receiving the child into their family; that would have given me enough closure (and hope for the future of these people) to accept leaving the big questions open, about who had the kid, why, how they were moving her, and what their intentions were. Sometimes writers set up a big shadowy organisation moving in the background that needs a full trilogy to resolve, so I understand that especially the big questions can’t all be answered in a novella. But I crave the little, personal resolutions and hopes, to balance that out, and not just for the central series heroes.

    • Yeah, the Cosa Nostradamus books are a bit on the dark side – they delve into questions of emotional and ethical responsibility, and while there are answers given, none of them are easy answers…

      That said, the novellas are also and mainly about the relationships. The mysteries get solved to the best of their ability, but with a cop’s awareness that nothing’s ever 100% put to rest….

      (which, I’m afraid, is a hallmark of my work. Even when I’m writing romantic fantasy – which these absolutely aren’t – the HEA leaves room for the reader to wander and wonder…)