My friend Kate turned 40 last weekend. She and her husband Stewart hosted a cracking party, complete with ceilidh band, party tent, and food and booze galore. I am such a fan of nights like this, when people have the audacity and gumption to toss together people from all walks of life and see what happens. Sometimes it's fine; I made a few new friends. I also met a few who weren't so fine; what's nice about these events is I don't have to see them ever again. It was a grand day when I realized that everybody doesn't have to like me all the time, and I certainly don't have to like everyone either.
[The duck was on the hedge in the front garden. (Credit to husband.) Their view of the Moray Firth is the stuff of dreams.]
It's taken far longer to realize that writing is the same; not everybody is going to like it. And I don't have to like everybody's. I spent many years in awe of words. I remember reading Crime and Punishment in high school and wondering why Camus wrote The Stranger, as I thought the stories were strikingly similar; I dared not voice this opinion. Who am I to judge Camus? And as a Lit major, slogging through the Norton Anthologies of poetry, British poetry, literature, British literature; Chaucer, Shakespeare, Modern Lit, postwar Lit - each course taught by a professor who sang the praises of these writers and their labors. It was difficult to formulate an opinion without the professor's lectures serving as a guide.
It's taken me years to create a discerning reading eye, and now reading is ruined for me; I rarely fall into a book, like I used to do. Instead, if it's working for me, I figure out how the writer is doing it - the devices used, characterization, language - and then I can formulate an opinion. The scary part is that others will be doing the same with my work.
Not everyone is going to like my books. Some might hate them. But the perfect book hasn't been written and won't ever be written; somebody, somewhere, will be disappointed. Or hurt. Or angry. Or feel it was a waste of time. I'm in good company, both as a writer and as a discerning reader.