An author’s desire for affirmation isn’t an issue of vanity. Diaries and journals are for private thoughts, but stories, those are written with the intention to share. And in sharing, writers expose a part of themselves. The reader’s response (as much as we’d like to deny it) is, therefore, essential.
Who gives a gift without the expectation of a response? Imagine leaving a gift on a person’s doorstep and then experiencing days, weeks, or even months of silence? A predictable and acceptable emotional cycle would occur. The first speculation: Did they receive it? Perhaps it was stolen. Then anger: Well, what an ingrate to not respond. Then fear: OMG, she hated it, and she doesn’t know how to tell me. And finally despondency: I suck at giving gifts.
A typical response cycle for writers? In my very personal experience, the answer is “yes.”
Worse because the story is not necessarily seen as a “gift” so we cannot call upon righteous indignation to justify and therefore affirm our “right” to these emotions. We must endure the deafening silence in emotional solitude.
Writers tend to share a similar strategy to bolster their impassioned defense against the perceived, silent rejection. Rational proclamations to ward off the hurt. With variations, they sound as such:
“I write for me; I don’t care what others think.”
“People are busy, and a writer has no expectations of praise or review.”
“There are a lot of books out there. I just need to market more.”
All bunk of course.
Specifically, we may not care what others think but, in general, our intention is to write stories readers will like. The only writers who pen works with the foreknowledge of disgruntled readers are middle school textbook authors…and even they try.
We can recognize the reader’s “busy-ness” but a simple “I liked it” takes barely a moment.
Authors are a unique species. A profession that requires almost a noble humility. The other art forms—actors, athletes, musicians could never weather such a silent performance. Imagine a stage actor bowing to the silence. Or a sports stadium devoid of the crowds' communication? Even a pro-golfer receives the affirmations of polite claps.
But, alas, we continue because story-telling is a long journey we take in solitude. Because the reception of our work is a place far off from the point that we begin our Once Upon a Time. Because even in the absence of cheering crowds and five-star accolades, we are driven to chronicle the tales our minds conjure.
We write because even the inadequacies of public response cannot quell our passion for the words. To be a writer is to accept the words of composer, Franz Liszt:
Mournful and yet grand is the destiny of the artist.