Like a Kiss

I received my first fan letter about a month or two ago. It totally caught me off guard as it was regarding a story that had been published several years ago in a small university journal. The reader found my old blog address in the author’s bio and took the time to write to me. It was a lovely note. He had really read the story and had specific  reasons why he liked it. I was delighted and disconcerted at the same time. Delighted for obvious reasons. Disconcerted for more nebulous ones. I still partake in the publishing-as-validation dance. I look at an editor accepting my work as a form of validation that yes, I am a real Writer. Does a rejection then invalidate me? No, of course not. I continue to write. I understand how subjective this process can be. I understand how many submissions I am up against. There is definitely a supply and demand element. I know these things, in my head. In that soft, vulnerable part of my heart, however, things are not so black and white. Instead, there are endless shades of gray.

On a deeper level, the letter left me feeling exposed somehow. And vulnerable. Which got me thinking about why I put my stuff out there in the first place. I write because I have to. But I don’t have to submit that work for the world to see and to like or not like. I tell myself I try to publish in order to make a connection, to touch someone the same way I have been touched by stories I have read over the years. Then, when I get acknowledgment that I have indeed touched someone with my words, I retreat. The note could just as easily have been nasty. And we all know how much easier it is to believe the bad stuff rather than the good stuff about ourselves. The ideal place to come from shouldn’t take the praise to heart, nor the criticism. I don’t know about you, but I rarely live up to the ideal version of myself. I know that if I ever receive a nasty response to my work, it will clobber me. Sure, I’ll get back up, but it will be that much harder to send out my work the next time.

In the end, it’s not about validation or rejection but of reaching out. What comes after that is out of my hands. As John Cheever said, “‎”I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss – you can’t do it alone.”


10 thoughts on “Like a Kiss

  1. You should enjoy this moment. Fan letters are the best. I think this industry is so tough and we should take the time to celebrate moments that make it all worth while.

    • Kelly- I completely agree!
      Claudine- Thank you!
      Jennifer- It is defintiely an exchange. And definitely magical:)

  2. As a reader, I always see the act of reading as an exchange. Some people don’t understand that because there’s no real interaction, they say. All the response is one-sided.

    I don’t believe that. Writing and reading is like a dance. It’s impossible to capture into words, but when it’s right, when it syncs, you can just feel it.

    It’s like magic.

  3. I’ve heard many times that a writer only does half the work, the reader completes the process. I love that sentiment because it means that every time some reads or rereads a piece of writing, that work is rewritten.

    Just wondering if you have the same feelings of trepidation about comments on your blog?

    • Susan- I love that quote! Good question. I don’t feel the same way about comments on my blog. I think my fiction feels much more personal. I may reveal things that aren’t intended, whereas on the blog, if I do reveal something personal, I’ve made a conscious decision to do so.

  4. The writer can only write, and never predict how a reader will respond or interpret our words. I am always amazed at comments, whether to a blog post, an essay, and even my fiction. I’d agree with my fellow commenter’s above, but I like how Jenifer coined the phrase, ‘a dance between reader and writer’ – tis really. Another point to remember, as writers, we can’t make everybody happy and we run the risk of annoying at least one person with our POV, fiction or not. Enjoy your moments .. All of them.

  5. I think you should totally enjoy this moment. How cool. Don’t over think why you write! Just keep doing it! It’s your calling 🙂

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