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.