Late Night Epiphanies

Posted by on May 2, 2014 in Writing | 1 comment

I’m usually up a lot during the night. Most nights, I’m up just staring at a computer screen until I can no longer see straight. I will work until either my eyes stop focusing or I do. Now, I’m not saying this sympathy’s sake, I’m saying this so that the rest of what I’m going to say will make sense. When you get to the point of near delirium, sometimes things that you were trying to figure out all of a sudden become clear. There’s that “Aha!” moment when you sit back, look at something, and can’t believe you never saw it that way before. One of those events happened around 2 a.m. on a rather uneventful Thursday night.

I had been working on the business for almost 14 straight hours, and my brain had turned to pudding. I couldn’t have remembered my name if someone had told it to me, then asked me to recite it right back to them. I was pretty useless at that point, but not so utterly exhausted that I could collapse into bed and fall into a dreamless sleep for 6-8 hours before waking up and doing it all over again…so I did what I almost always like to do when I’m too tired to think but not to sleep: I looked at books and read reviews.

It’s no secret I’m addicted to the written word, so it should come as no surprise that even when I’m at my most mindless, that’s still what I come back to. Anyway, I decided to read the reviews on a memoir that I had found a fantastic read, and noticed that there were quite a few bad reviews. I was devastated. How could these people not see the genius that this story was? Were they even reading the same book? Did they not see the way the person triumphed at the end? Did they not feel the pain the person had to go through to come out a winner on the other side? Then, it  hit me. It was so simple that I couldn’t believe I didn’t originally see it:

They didn’t. They honestly didn’t understand.

The people who didn’t like it, didn’t get it. They didn’t understand because their experiences weren’t similar to the author’s. They didn’t understand the feelings that the author was feeling because they’d never experienced them.

I know, it’s not brain surgery. It’s really a simple concept; almost too simple actually. However simple this concept may be, though, it’s not something that we as authors remember when we get a bad review. Most of us want every person who reads our stories to like them, love them even, but that’s completely unrealistic because not everyone has had the exact same experience. Not everyone will get it, and that’s okay. Not everyone should totally get it. They haven’t walked the proverbial mile in your shoes, and you can’t realistically write emotions you don’t understand. On the flip side, your readers, if they haven’t been in the situation that would bring about the emotions you’re trying to convey, it’s basically like trying to tell a fish what living on dry land is like: A lot of effort for no reward.

This isn’t meant to be a discouraging blog post, really it isn’t. My entire point to this post is that no matter how terrific your story is, no matter how heart wrenching or uplifting it is, no matter how well edited, there will still be people who don’t like it and don’t get it. That’s perfectly okay, too, because this world would be very boring if everyone had the same experiences.

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