I’ve always had a thing for stars. Though my back yard here in NY never feels quite dark enough for stargazing, where I grew up in the Midwest was ripe for it. My mother was a bona fide night owl—something she most definitely passed down to me. In the summer, we would go swimming (just the two of us) in the wee hours of the night. Floating in the water, soaking up the peacefulness, we would stare up into the sky, looking for shooting stars and daydreaming about what might be out there. The view from my sister’s farm was even more breathtaking. Black and brilliant at the same time, I remember thinking it was like seeing into forever.
Since hitting that ‘publish’ button, stars have taken on a whole other meaning.
Authors, particularly us newbies, tend to crave feedback. Not only do we want people to enjoy reading our stories as much as we enjoyed writing them, we want to feel like the blood we shed on our keyboards was worth it. We wait, not so patiently, for someone to fill in those dastardly little shapes. And then they do.
One star is unthinkable, so we won’t even discuss it. Two opens up the flood gates of insecurity. Three we can live with; happily most of the time. Four makes us grin ear to ear. And five has the ability to make us jump around the room like little kids on our birthday. Of course, words often arrive with the stars. Good, bad, and in between; reviews linger, leaving an impression in our minds like the bright trail of a comet streaking across the sky.
Lately, I’ve read a lot about how doubt destroys more dreams than anything else. It’s important to write for yourself. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, just write. On the flip side of that is the argument that it’s crucial to please your readers. Write for the fans because you can’t afford to disappoint them. I know I’m new at this, but I have to believe there’s a happy medium.
Writing under the pressure of pleasing everyone else will quickly sap the fun and enjoyment out of your writing. Especially since we all know: we can’t please everyone. A person could go insane trying to tailor their story and their characters to satisfy all of their reader’s wants and critiques. Pouring over your reviews, picking apart every word, trying to make sense of why your life’s work wasn’t someone’s cup of tea, is a sure confidence killer. Been there. Done that. Kicking myself for still doing it.
Yet, ignoring the stars and discounting your reviews is equally foolish. After all, a story is just words on a page until someone reads it, and I’m grateful every single time someone does. In my opinion, the key is to not get weighed down by the occasional, heavy stars, but to look for the constellations; consistent patterns of constructive criticism and negative comments. If enough people are addressing the same issue, then there’s a good chance you might need to address it, too.
In our society, a star can symbolize many things, including honor, achievement, and hope. For a new writer, it’s important to remember that every star means you’ve reached someone. You’ve put your creation in someone’s hands—just like you always hoped. And that’s an honor, and an achievement, all in itself.