Yesterday, I received a note praising my book, Out of the Shadows, from a dear friend. She didn’t have to bother. She’s a busy woman, yet she stopped long enough to send me a card with a lovely note inside that, incidentally, made my day. She didn’t just say, ‘loved your book’, she took the time to be specific, pointing out what struck her positively about it.
We writers are neurotic souls; one day we think we are the next Hemmingway, the next day we feel like Daffy Duck. Feedback, especially specific comments about our stories, helps bring us back to a more realistic mindset; we aren’t the next Hemmingway, but we (probably) aren’t Daffy, either. We are somewhere in between.
My faithful friend asked me if I had received much feedback from this book, and sadly, I have not. I heard immediate and very positive feedback from my first publication, a look back at my cult days. At work, my nursing colleagues were all eager to buy it, more to support a fellow nurse, I’m sure, than any expectations of its merit. I certainly had no expectations that they would read it. I underestimated them. Not only did they read it, they were eager to tell me how much they had liked it. It had moved them, surprised them, and enlightened them about cults. In short, they liked it, they really liked it! (Did I mention that too much praise and no constructive criticism sends a writer soaring towards the dangerous Hemmingway zone?)
My second book was a different matter among my nurse friends. Disappointment often follows high expectations. Over 40 of my colleagues eagerly bought my second book, a fiction novel this time. Only a handful have even mentioned it. You know the old saw; if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. So, following on that thought, and being the wordsmith I am, I have naturally given voice to their silence. Into the feedback void I have thrown a veritable thesaurus of synonyms for terrible: dull, inane, prosaic, full of holes, waste of time–the list goes on. The words beat me over the head, making me question whether I should ever write again. Am I simply sound and fury, signifying nothing?
And then a note of affirmation comes unexpectedly in the mail. The sun shines again, the negative words I’ve conjured disappear in a poof of air. I’m not near the red zone yet, but I’m moving away from Daffy Duck again. Thanks, dear friend. You not only made my day, you inspired me to keep on writing. Bless you for taking the time to give me positive feedback. It’s worth more than I can say.