By , on May 28, 2011


For the sake of argument, let’s say you work in an office. You’re sitting in your cubicle, sipping your morning K-cup blend, pretending to be busy while you check Facebook. You’re minding your own business. A complete stranger steps onto your plastic desk chair mat and says, “I like that business do you’re sporting, but that crayon drawing you have thumb-tacked over your calendar was clearly done by a toddler grossly lacking in motor skills, that Ziggy mug of day-old noodles reeks of despair, and your shoes—well, your shoes bring nothing new to the office genre. I rate this desk three stars out of a possible five.”

How are you feeling right about now?

As a writer, I don’t exactly adhere to a specific dress code, and my morning commute is from the bathroom to the laptop, but writing is my job just like any other profession. I mind my own business, write my stories, and waste a lot of time on the internet. I bleed red just like any other person at any other job. But man, people do NOT have a problem telling me what they think of my performance.

The only real difference is that my work is put out into the world, where it is then judged. Oh, no, don’t hold back. Say what you really think of my prose, my characterization, my cover art. This isn’t going to be an entry about how I Have Feelings and You Should Respect Them.

Before I was a published author, I worked several office jobs. They were all pretty much the same. I sat at a desk and tried to look like I was doing something important. I answered phones. I got berated by a boss because I spent more than two minutes in the bathroom while the phone was ringing. I was surrounded by people who, all day every day, were polite and professional. It wouldn’t do to tell my desk-mate that her perfume was making me regret anything I’d eaten in the past week. Nobody was going to tell me they didn’t like my hair, or the webcomic I’d taped to my monitor.

However, I am willing to bet that every person, in every profession, has opinions. We all have some, er, constructive observations we keep to ourselves. Maybe it’s because we don’t want a confrontation. Maybe it’s because our mothers told us that if we couldn’t say anything nice, we shouldn’t say anything at all. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of what will be said of us in return.

So, what’s to be done with our feelings? Where do we put our observations? When we leave our jobs for the day, how do we break free of that professional persona and let our hair down?

Some, I’ve noticed, read.

It just so happens that I have a book published. Maybe you’ve heard of it. And wherever you search for my book, you’re bound to find reviews. All manner of them. Some are enthusiastic, some are scathing, some—some are just creative and hilarious. Some speculate that I wrote my book to be the next This Book or That Book, or to serve as a parable. Some say I’m a rising new voice. Some say I have the literary prowess of an intoxicated bullfrog.

Here’s why I wrote my book. Here’s why I’ve written anything at all, and why I’ll continue to write: I’m a storyteller. I like to make things up. I’ve been doing it all my life, and I’ll do it until I’m either too senile to function or dead. For most of my life, I lived in one fantasy after another, all of which I created to entertain myself. I did it for me.

Now that I’m published, my stories no longer belong to only me. They belong to you, if you’d like to have them. They belong to anyone who reads any line of any story I write. You can read a sentence and decide you’ll never read another word that comes from me. You can read half and then lose the book on a bus. You can read the entire book in one sitting, and promptly return to page 1 and start again. You are welcome to do whatever you’d like. You can write exactly what you think, and you can put it in a place where everyone will see it. I won’t tell you to be tactful, or helpful, or to consider the hard work that I, the author, put into it. I won’t tell you to say something nice, or nothing at all.

Even if you don’t have a job that forces you to be restrained, we all live in a world where we have to keep our feelings to ourselves sometimes.

Not in books, though. And not in our opinions of them.

9 Comments to “At the stars”

  1. Enjoyed this post, Lauren. Thank you! The commute is almost worth trading the unkind reviews. Almost. And, I hope you still have webcomics taped to your screen. Some things deserve to come home with us! :)

  2. Brittany says:

    Great post! As a writer, I have a hard time reviewing the books that I read because a) I’m naturally a polite perons, b) it’s just my opinion and not fact, and c) I recognize the time and love and energy that went into the work.
    For example, I read Wither, and it was engrossing. It gave me nightmares. It made me think. Did I like everything about it? No. I wanted Rhine to get with Linden. I was annoyed by Cecily. Those are just my opinions, though, and I feel the same way about every good book that I read or show that I watch. In some ways, strong opinions and feelings show that the work is effective because I care about the characters and get angry at them. In conclusion, thanks for making me mad!

  3. Sarah Allen says:

    Great post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  4. At the Stars: Love your blog. I know what you mean about the desk-mate and her perfume making you regret anything you had eaten in the past week. When others were picketing for “no smoking sections” in restaurants, I wanted to picket for “no smelling sections.” What I really feel about your prose is your writing is easy to read and the story-line holds my interest to the point that I did not want to put “Wither” down until the last page. Then, I still wanted more. There are so many unanswered questions. I eagerly await the publication of “Fever.” You have a knack for the way you introduce your characters and make them so vivid in my mind. If there is an award for cover art, surely you will win it! It will make readers notice your book when looking for a good read. My praises to the designer. I worked at a medical center with an unusal job where I could tell doctors things they could not do unless they made certain changes and had to listen to them fuss and argue with me all day. I really needed to leave my job at work when I went home. At home I have a great family, great pets and good books to read. The only way it could get any better than this would be to win an ARC of “Wither” or “Fever.” Keep up the good writing!

  5. When I posted my comment, the time said it was 2:23am, but the correct time is 10:25pm on May 30, 2011. I don’t want to miss a chance at winning the contest for entering too late because the clock is incorrect!

  6. Alba says:

    you are my complete and uter hero at this right moment! I just dropped by and told myself…hey let’s see what Lauren has written since the giveaway post…and BOOM!
    you cannot believe how this post made me feel how I relate in everything and not relate at all!
    I’m not a writer…though I’d love to…working on it—besides I’ve been dying to read your book sooo bad!! and read so many reviews as you said, bad, good, hilarious and even some that made me tear up a bit…you completely banish lots of thoughts and doubts from my mind that were taking residence in there and didn’t want to let go.
    I love all writers/authors because of everything they have to endure AFTER publishing, of course I admire the effort, the nights of non sleep the 100000 words an afternoon, and in between you get to spen some time with us!! you rock and I agree with you keep up your work and I’m sure I’ll speak my mind up when I get to read your book!;)

  7. Danielle says:

    As an aspiring author, this is the thing that scares me the most. I know everyone is entitled to their own opinions and not everyone will love the same things as you; but people on the interwebz can be harsh! It’s very easy to be tough behind a computer screen, when it’s very likely you’ll never come in contact w/ the person you’re criticizing. Things that people would never think to say to someone’s face, they’ll spew online. I’ve read books I’ve loved and books I’ve hated. I’ve seen movies I thought were awesome and movies I thought sucked. I also prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla. You get the point. But at the end of the day, a published author had the balls to put their work out there and that, in and of itself, is praiseworthy.
    :) Keep smiling and try to tune out the haters.


  8. Gabi says:

    I never write reviews of books. I will tell people my opinions if they ask for them, or ask for a rec of a good book to read. I hate when I read a book I don’t like. I recently bought a book that I ended up disappointed with it. The characters were inconsistent, minor characters were better defined then major ones, and it was written for a much younger age group then it had been marketed for. But what I hated most was that someone had worked really hard on this book, and I don’t even want to keep it on my shelf. I’m terrified that when I’m finally published someday, all I will hear is that my book wasn’t worth that $10, $17, whatever, it was bought for.

    And by the way, I read your book from the library and it is now on my to-buy list. I wish I’d bought it instead of the book mentioned above. :]

  • Tag Cloud