Affirmation vs. Entitlement
It’s important that someone celebrate our existence… People are the only mirror we have to see ourselves in. The domain of all meaning. All virtue, all evil, are contained only in people. There is none in the universe at large. Solitary confinement is a punishment in every human culture.Lois McMaster Bujold, “Mirror Dance”, 1994 US science fiction author
Just bear with me while I work this out in my own head. I started this post after seeing the umpteenth blog commenting – again – about how much crap indie writers self-publish with twenty or thirty five star reviews and the umpteenth request for likes/tags/reviews from yet another indie author looking for validation (i.e. affirmation.). Then there was the complaint on the Amazon forums.
Look, I get it. Under the best of circumstances being a writer is tough. After all – unlike the rest of the arts – most of us learned how to write our own names before we reached kindergarten. Most people, though, are terrified of public speaking, so only a gifted few have the courage to act – yet there are still some astonishingly bad ones. All it takes is one viewing of X-Factor or American Idol to see how many people fool themselves into thinking they can sing. Ditto for You Think You Can Dance. Writing is no better, and in some ways it’s worse. After all, anyone can write. No special skills – beyond spelling and grammar – are required. After all, Snooki wrote a book. (And a thousand classic novels died to make room for it.) Have you read it? (I haven’t. I’ve heard her speak.) Worse, for many of us, unlike many other artists, there’s very little validation. (to give official sanction, confirmation, or approval to, selected officials, election procedures, documents, etc.)
Look, I get it. There’s no affirmation. No one saying ‘Atta girl/guy’. In fact, quite the opposite. Our families don’t always understand what it’s like to do what we do. They don’t understand that we have to stay with the flow. To interrupt is like standing up in the middle of a play, or walking into an orchestra practice without warning. They wouldn’t do that, but they have no problem doing something similar to us. For many of us, we not only don’t get affirmations, we sometimes have to take criticism for the time we take away from loved ones/family. Especially since we’re right there, unlike actors/singers on a stage, or even painters with a canvas in front of them.
And since everyone can write, a number of people feel they have the right and skills to write reviews, both critical and complimentary.
However, it’s not required. By anyone.
A review, whether by a professional – as in theater reviews – or an ‘amateur’ – as with most book reviews – are opinions, and everyone is entitled to one of those.
We, as writers, have no right to do more than request them…politely. You have no ‘right’ to complain if people don’t. Reviews are, and should be, voluntary. Lately there’s been quite a bit of hullaballoo over sock puppets and paid reviews – like retaliating against another author because that author is doing better or wrote a less than flattering review. To demand any likes/tags/reviews is amateurish behavior. As tough as it is a professional author has to just suck it up. We need to understand that we don’t have the right to affirmations – however much we need them. It’s just part of the deal. The down side.
The up side? We get to spend whatever time we can manage in the wonderful worlds we create in our minds.