Nov 22

You Can’t Please Everyone

Believe it or not, not everyone is going to like what you write. Get used to it — and move on.

Hey, there are people who don’t like Shakespeare. At the turn of the 20th century, wit and playwright George Bernard Shaw despised the bard. French writer Voltaire of the 1820s and ‘30s thought Shakespeare was a savage. Russian literary giant, the novelist of War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy thought the master playwright as “trivial and positively bad…”

Mark Twain once said, “Everytime I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

Think about it — there are writers you don’t like. Personally For Whom The Bell Tolls is the only thing (well, besides The Big Two Hearted River) of Hemingway’s I can even get through. So, who is my fav writer? It doesn’t matter. Who is your most beloved writer? It doesn’t matter. If there’s a writer or two who inspire you, that’s all that’s important.

Certain genre you can’t stand? That means certain writers fall into your “bad writer” circle. There are people in whose “bad writer” circle you fall — most likely many people’s. Deal with it. It’s not the end of the world. You’re not writing for them, anyway.

Pleasing everyone isn’t supposed to be your goal. Your writing should be about pleasing yourself first. If you can’t please you, who can you please? If you don’t clearly love the work you do, it won’t be very good. Too many writers get bogged down straining to be everybody’s favorite and miss doing whatever they’re really good at. Don’t let that be you.

Cornelius Ryan, awarded author of The Last Battle (The Battle of Britian), The Longest Day (D-Day) and A Bridge Too Far (Operation Market Garden), wrote seven fiction novels all of which flopped before he found himself as a historical novelist. So the point here is you need to find what you do best — and a hint — it’s something you like, not something you do but you really don’t enjoy.

Critics and “lit” teachers ruin more writers than anything else. They find images, themes, insights, symbols, and messages where only proper spelling exists. As I’ve said before, write what you want to read — and understand you can’t do that unless you are true to yourself. Own up to what you like and what you don’t. If someone takes what you’ve written as an allegory on some issue in their life — so be it.

Read those writers who inspire you — and don’t be afraid to stop reading writers you don’t like. This is a hard lesson to learn. Closing a book after a chapter or two seems like you’re giving up. Deleting a book you just can’t get into seems like failure. But think about this. You only have x number of days and hours to your life. Why waste any of it on writers who don’t ring your bell? Reading is absolutely a part of your job as a writer.

Of course, there’s something to be said for reading enough to know what turns you off. Once you’ve grasped that — move on. Make your own list of good writers. You’ll find it both enlarges and expands over the years. So, you have a lot of writers you’ve never read and you have yet to discover. Be aware, “There is gold in them there pages.” There’s also crap. You know the difference. Trust your instincts. It’ll make you a better writer.

Remember they said even Jesus couldn’t please more than a dozen people at a time — unless he served them lunch. Unless you’re planning to serve food with your work, focus on your words. Do what you need to do. Write. Get your work done.


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