These days it seems like “the norm” is to check your Twitter mentions and find a dozen tweets commenting on your writing. It’s great! It’s terrible! I want more! I want this person to go away forever! Except it’s almost always one extreme or the other and this seems extremely unnecessary and unfair.
But it’s important to remember that these are — most likely — only a very small fraction of people who have seen what you’ve written and published.
Most people will not actually take the time to reach out to you and tell you how your work makes them feel. Not unless their lives are somehow changed or something specific you’ve said made them think deeply or seriously about something — conclusions they technically came to on their own but through thought processes your words inspired.
Why not? Because a lot of people don’t think reaching out to a creator who inspires them will “make a difference.” They won’t respond or see this so there’s no point. People are also busy and tend to move on from one thing to the next without taking the time to reflect and think, “Wow, this thing I just read really made me think, I’m going to share my thoughts with the person who wrote it.”
The downside to this, of course, is that there may be a handful of people out there who absolutely love reading what you have to say and never tell you so. So when you’re feeling down and wish someone would read/comment on your work, it’s easy to forget that just because there’s silence doesn’t mean no one is paying attention.
And the upside? People who hate you or your work may never bother you with their negativity. YAY!
I know it’s frustrating to think about how you may be spending hours every day putting things out there and no one is telling you whether it’s “good” or not. But if everyone got the same amount of interaction with every post … no, it just can’t happen. There’s too much to be read. Or skimmed. Whatever.
You have to do this whole writing thing knowing that more than anything, how YOU feel about the work you’re producing should have the most influence over what you produce next.
When there’s no one telling you what you’re doing right or wrong, you have to trust your gut. You have to rely on yourself to decide if you’re happy with what you’re putting out there.
I know that’s not what you want to hear. You want to know how to get more feedback. Well, the only way to do that is to keep writing and keep writing and keep working until you build a loyal audience that may or may not tell you what they want.
Writing is 95% experimentation. The only way to figure out what “works” is to keep trying different things until you find a solid formula. And even that can change. You always have to be alert. Always ready to do something different.
If none of this seems doable for you, then consider a career that isn’t online publishing. This is how it is for everyone who jumps into it, and it always will be. It’s not terrible. It’s just lonely sometimes. You have to learn to rely on yourself first. Others’ thoughts and opinions may or may not come later.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.