Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Your Book Is Not You

I recently had a long discussion with Captain Film Major about how to respond to people disliking certain works in your oeuvre or in your genre. I tend not to take personally when someone doesn't like books I like or books in my genre. He, when it comes to cinema, sometimes does.

One sticking point that came up for us is that Captain Film Major said that he wanted people to like the movies that inspired him or movies of the sort he wanted to write, because he thought that if they didn't like those movies, then they wouldn't like his.

My reaction to that statement was something along the lines of, "But, your friends don't need to like your work. Your friends should like

That's when we reached the central focus of our disagreement. To sum up his response: "My work is me."

Okay, here's my deal: As far as I'm concerned, my work isn't me. My work is something I put a lot of time and effort into, and it is something I am passionate about. It represents my thought processes, my decision-making, and my struggling. Sometimes, it even represents some of my recollections. It does not, though, as far as I'm concerned, represent me.

How could it be me, after all? I'm not my MC(s). I'm not any of the other people either. There is no writer's cameo in my work.

I understand that others might have a different view. It is hard not to become strongly tied to one's creative work. It's not uncommon for an MS to represent the blood, sweat, and tears of a novelist. (Although, personally, I'm hoping it wasn't a tremendous amount of blood. And, really, if there's any blood, I'm hoping it's your own, because otherwise, that would be creepy.) However, I do flatter myself that I've found a healthy reaction to my work.

I don't think people should their work be them or themselves be their work. I've seen people put themselves into that place where all of their life was about one thing they did. Then, when someone rejected that one thing, that one aspect of their life, the person took it hard, because it felt like someone had rejected all of who they are.

I am not just one thing. I am not just my book(s). I am a friend. A daughter. A sister. A twin. A thespian. An American (and sometimes a Canadian). I am a cousin. A niece. A student. A listener. A speaker. A thinker. A doer.

I am not just a writer. And I don't think you are either. You are more than your books. You are you.

For other related reading, I recommend *Fiction Groupie*'s post. Click here.

Do you ever have trouble separating yourself from your work? Do you feel it's necessary to separate yourself from it?


  1. Well, it's certainly harder to separate myself from my work when I'm writing autobiography!

    But in fiction, not so much. I agree with you. We are human; we are multifaceted. We are more than just writers. We are also friends, lovers, family members, professionals in other fields, etc. If someone doesn't like our writing (or writing in general) they can still like and love us for other reasons.

    And certainly, one single work of art we do is not us. It is an expression of an aspect of us, true. But I think that in order not to go crazy, we need to accept that nobody is ever going to like every single thing about us or everything we do. And that's OK.

  2. No. I am not my work. The question of LIKE was dealt with very well by Nathan Bransford this week.

  3. Oddly enough, I used to have the opposite problem. I spent so much time on my writing, but I completely didn't care when I got criticism. For me, for as much work as I was putting into it, I think I wasn't putting enough of my heart into it. There was a lot of fake emotion. Now, I think my writing is more powerful because I do care more. I do get hurt when people criticize it. I think it has helped my writing. I am trying to be my work more, but that's only to balance the initial distance I had developed.

  4. I used to think I could never be friends with someone who didn't like my writing. Or marry someone who didn't like my writing. I don't believe that any more, but just in case, I never show my writing to my friends or husband. ;)

  5. RE: Fiction Groupie. I know this may contradict what I said on the post elsewhere here, but I hate reading negative reviews. I don't just mean as an author I hate reading bad reviews of my own book (where hate would be too weak a word) but even as a reader. I don't mind if people are polite and give specific examples of a book's weakness, as long as they also mention strengths, and above all aren't mean or dismissive. Nothing is worse than a review like, "What a lame book, the ending sucked, I wanted a thriller and this was a cozy which I never read, I disagree with the author's politics."

  6. This is a great post, thank you! And it's exactly what I needed to hear right now. I often get my most passionate hobbies confused with WHO I am, when they are really just a component.

  7. Genie -- Thanks for weighing in. I agree, keeping the distance is useful for staying sane.

    Elaine -- Thanks for the tip. I'll go check it out.

    Davin -- Yes, I do imagine that being personally invested does increase the quality of work in some ways. I would encourage caring about the work, of course, though not to the extend that it becomes all of oneself.

    Tara -- Yes, there is always that option. I tend to show my work only to those I trust. Thanks for commenting. I have to agree, simply saying "This sucks" isn't a constructive review. That's just mean.

    Michelle -- I'm glad you found the post helpful. :)