There’s been a lot of chatter on the old blogosphere about what does a writer does and does not owe a reader, which has me thinking about the ownership of writing; this strange connection between writer and reader. Accepting what they say about what the writer owes the reader, I’m left wondering what does the reader owe the writer?

Let’s face it, for many writers, their relationship with their readers ends with the reader plunking down the money (or clicking on their blog) for the writer’s product. On the one hand, I wrote it, it is what it is, I don’t care what you think. (That’s my hang up: I tend to react the same to fans as well as critics when it comes to discussing my work. If I “buy” the praise, I have to “buy” the criticism. I’m working on it.) On the other hand, all critics don’t have to be heard.

“He was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.” – George Eliot

I have a theory that there is a sort of “reader’s hubris” – that in this day an age, it’s a lot easier for readers to directly let the writer know what they think. Like sports fans who feel entitled to sometimes behave in an out of control manner because they have paid their money, readers sometimes think that their opinion is valid (which it is), that their opinions are thought provoking or worthy of consideration (which is questionable), and that the writer should hear them (which many writers love to hear from their readers, good or bad. I’m working on it. Brian Keene keeps telling me to respect my readers, especially as an up-and-coming writer, and not call them nobs, even when they’re nobs. I can however call him, and HE can call them nobs.)

You write, you expect (and want) to be reviewed. Complaining about reviewers is like actors complaining about the paparazzi: they all need them to get noticed (and to validate them being worthy of being photographed). Hopefully you can tell which critics have opinions worth paying attention to by the quality and thoughtfulness of their criticisms and weight them appropriately. The rest you learn to dismiss. It’s easy for people to type “you’re an idiot” in an e-mail and hit enter with all of the bravery that the Internet and a keyboard affords them.

“Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.” – George Eliot

[NOTE: this quote is used with a certain amount of irony, considering my blogs]

Though, you have to keep in mind that being criticized is part of the game when you put yourself out there. Here’s my fear, if you haven’t learned when to not listen to your critics: that you start writing for your critics. Or worse, not write at all. It’s why so many writers finish things, then leave them in their desk drawers. The story belongs to the reader. It’s like parenting: you birth the child, raise it (through re-writes), prepare it to make it on its own (accepted for publication), and then send it out into the world (to be read). The simple fact of the matter is that some people just have to tell you what they think. Why do I have to hear it? Because, it completes the cycle, fulfills the relationship between writer and reader. Though, I’ve been told that the reason to listen to the praise is to help carry you through the barrage of criticism that will come your way.

Take this for what it’s worth. I don’t care either way. But I’m working on it.

*Um, actual, that was a bit of a Freudian slip of a typo that I let stand. I meant to type that all critics aren’t created equal.

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