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Ten Reasons Why Your Friends Hate Your Book

May 4, 2018

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Whenever you post about kittens or babies, they freely dole out “thumbs up” on your social media like it’s a WW2 pilot cosplay convention. But when you post about your book, they scatter like cockroaches.

What’s the deal?

Short of ditching them all, pulling on boxing gloves, or crying in a corner, there’s not much resolution you can achieve on your own. So let me offer some help. Let’s walk through the possibilities together of some of the main reasons why your friends seem to hate your book.

1. They aren’t your real friends. Why else wouldn’t they delight to read your latest tween vampire erotic cookbook? A real friend would be there for you, measuring out the blood-root and turmeric sugar. This is your art we’re talking about, after all. Who are these ‘people’ on your friends list anyways…these bodies taking up space at your birthday party or in your house? Maybe it’s high time for some much needed pruning as they say, and now you’ve got just the test for figuring out who stays and who gets the shears. Whip out that book of wonder right when things start hopping– whether at a birthday party, a baptism, a baby shower, or during a dinner date. Just watch how quickly the concept of friendship will be clarified for you.

2. Your books sucks. I know this one’s hard. But let’s consider it, if only for one brief, biting moment. Do your characters speak in commercial jingles? Do you write about their emotions in a broken, half legible English? Is your style the visual equivalent of handwritten “puffy” letters with hearted “i”s in crayon? Is your book about actuaries, Wisconsin, talking firetrucks, taxes, or an ultra-personal obsession? Do your friends make faces whenever looking at your book as if they are appreciating the eye-stinging aroma of cat litter? If so, this might be a good time to review your oeuvre with a critical eye before we move on.

3. You’ve misconstrued the terms of the friendship. Your assumed linkage of “friend” and “patron” is unfounded. Friends want to drink with you. They hit the like button for pics of you taken while drinking, particularly when urged by them. After the hangovers, they feel duped to realize they’ve signed on to your feedback circle. The more generous among them hope for an incentive. Quick! Get out your scissors and make a “Read Three Chapters and Get a Free Beer” card you can stamp for them.

4. Your friends are protecting you. They’ve heard the horror stories about the cruel world creative-types face and they don’t want you to get your hopes up. They think you’re too much of a dreamer already. They have to stick together on this one and be strong. For you. They’re doing it for you. Remember: It takes a village not to raise a village idiot and, by gumption, they’re going to get you through this, kiddo. In no time at all you’ll be back to their version of your “real” self, living the practical life safe in a prophylactic of their creation—which shall be your understanding, for some reason, never to dream too openly again. Now all of this has us shaken up. Why don’t we all just calm down…One Stepford Friend…Two Stepford Friend…Three Stepford Friend…Let’s all count, and we’ll get through this <insert Rick Grimes voice hear> TOGETHER.

5. It’s not you; they hate all books. Like most people who are not writers, your friends don’t read any good writing. Maybe they despise stories. The masses come in two sizes, after all, unwashed and vulgar, and if your friends are people there’s a pretty good chance they could share in the thought that writing, the good kind,  is no longer a mass entertainment and hasn’t been since the days when poetry was recited aloud in order to distract people from the unpleasant odors of farm animals, cholera, and themselves.

6. They fear your ego. First a few poems or stories published, then what? The moon! We all know how hard it is to suffer Hoity-toity Helen with her stupid, well-paying new job when we haven’t gotten a raise in years. Or Ordinary Orville with his trophy stupidly beautiful wife. Would there even be room by the hors d’oeuvre table with this new version of you? Your new sense of yourself as an auteur will be hogging up all the ego space usually reserved for the pigs in blankets and the punch.

7. They suffer writer envy. They are unrealized poets and artists with long-crushed dreams. Why should they nurture you when their creative energies were demolished under the gargantuan heels of indifference in their own lives?

8. They fear comparison. Now that you’ve accomplished this piece of writing that you’ve shared with the world, the drudgery of their own lives seems suddenly vivid and achingly impossible to ignore. Compared to you, they’ve got nothing, except maybe a life measured out in coffee spoons. Yeah, that’s a good one. They like that metaphor. Where’d that come from again? Oh yeah, A f$!^%g poem!!  Bingo! Your poetry casts them and their shortcomings into shameful relief and they fear you for it. They fear all beauty in the presence of their ineluctable smallness. Ha ha! You are a planet–Authorus–while they…They are but the minute specks of cosmic yada yada –you get the picture. They’re small. And you’re a friggin galaxy of language.

9. It’s not happening at all. It’s all in your head. Not everyone leaves the building when you declaim your writerly accomplishments. A few wide-eyed cheerleaders yet remain. Sure, they’re not the ones with the highest kicks, and sure, the solo they’ve been referring to as the “fireworks” consists mainly of somersaults along the gravel performed with an excess of breathing and tongues sticking out like small children writing their names for the first time. But the point is they’re still there, leading your cheers from the sidelines and maybe it is they who deserve more praise and encouragement from you.

10. Who cares. Much has been learned from our list so far. If this were a work sheet we would leave the spaces here blank. This would be a moment for reflection, a “notes” section for you to continue the bold project of piercing into the conundrums that plague the creative soul. But hey, we do not write because we expect instant gratification or universal appeal—even though we might dream of these golden apples as we write. We write because we do. Write?

  1. How the hell do you always find the PERFRCT WORDS? I’m envious AND impressed. Thank you! You made my day!

    • Mostly, I think, the words find me. I try to make it easier for them to find me by getting myself out of their way. It’s an arduous lesson I first learned as a professor of literature: once I got of the way of students’ learning, their wisdom sprouted like May lilies after rain.

  2. This is hilarious, and so refreshing. It works through all our angst and fears, gives us a wider, self-shedding perspective, and puts us back where we belong, at peace with ourselves and the creative process. Thank you..

  3. Very funny. Sneeringly funny, and it sometimes feels like all those things when the tumbleweeds are cluttering your notifications feed, but I like to stay positive and think along the lines of time and taste. We are all trying to acknowledge our writer friends’ efforts, but we can’t possibly commit to reading every book by every friend because of the time aspect alone, and then there’s the taste part of it. I just don’t read much poetry or certain subject-matter, and I also only read ebooks for physiological reason. My friends understand all this because I know they also have their own reasons to read or not to read. Though I do always try to give a thumbs up to a post, if I see the post. That’s just polite.

  4. I’m falling off the chair laughing – but not sure I can get back up. You’ve nailed it, for sure. I’m lingering over #2. I should go back to cooking – but I couldn’t do that well either. I’ll read this again when I’m really down in the dumps. It will cheer me. Thanks, Michael, you’re brilliant.

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