Despite the little voice inside me that is saying, “Don’t do it, Nick!” I am compelled to talk about the issue of feedback, and yes, I realize a lot of this is going to sound like sour grapes, but I feel there is a lot of ignorance that needs to be dispelled.
It’s silly for me to complain really, considering we are bombarded on Facebook, Twitter, and in our e-mails for donations to the Democratic or Republican elections, to save African elephants from poachers or whales from Japanese fishermen, or to help the homeless in America, the list is endless. Quite frankly, I think modern day America, and the rest of the industrialized world, is emotionally saturated. There are just so many things we are told to care about that we end up caring about nothing. In addition, you can’t visit a single web page without ads hitting your eyeballs from every possible direction, nor can you hope to escape the attention seekers of the world, like zombies coming after your wallet and your brain, from TV, radio, telephone and snail mail. As I see it, this is a serious problem, something I call information pollution. It’s bad enough to make me want to hit my bicycle with nothing but me and 35 miles of Pinellas Trail, or get entirely naked to wander like prehistoric man through the woods (only problem is where to put my car keys). So believe you me when I say, I completely understand why you’d rather not respond to something I’ve written. In fact, I am quite baffled whenever I do get responses, some of which come from around the globe. But for my close friends and family, or for anyone who knows someone personally with the writer’s disease, you cannot begin to imagine how important your input is. Really, you don’t. If you’re a writer, you needn’t read any further, but if you aren’t, think back to any important endeavor you’ve ever undertaken. Think of all the dinners you may have cooked for your wife or husband. Think of the handmade presents you gave to a friend or lover. Think of the crappy crayon drawing you gave to your mom when you were six that she hung on the refrigerator door. Now think of the anxiety you felt about whether they would like what you did, and multiply that feeling by a million—that is how most writers feel, even published ones, according to The Writer’s Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes. There is not a doubt in my mind that J.K Rowling is suffering some anxiety right now over how people will feel about her latest book, The Casual Vacancy. What’s worse, if the writer in your life is serious about his or her craft, that feeling of anxiety never goes away. We wake up with it. We go to sleep with it. It’s there when we’re having lunch, driving to work, or making love. It’s a perpetual problem and it makes me often hate this disease. This is no joke folks. Just look up writers and suicide on Google and see how many matches you get.
The thing is, there is a great deal of misconception about writers and feedback. There is this false perception that we’re just a bunch of egomaniacs, hungry for love and attention. If that were the case, I’d say screw us; there are certainly people more deserving of praise than writers. But that isn’t the case. When I get praise, like, “Hey, that was great!” I feel good for a while and I appreciate it, but that doesn’t really help anything. Great compared to what? And who are you, anyway, to judge me one way or the other? But feedback does get me excited, because it means I am making a connection; I am communicating, and that’s what writing is, a dialogue between a writer and a reader. My goal is to reach people, to express the inexpressible. I neither care for fame or riches. I only want a small audience of listeners. The connection I make with a reader is richer, deeper, more real and more meaningful, to me, than many of the friendships I’ve had and even many romantic relationships. When nobody is responding, I am forced to wonder, is anyone listening? Does anyone care? Am I alone? It’s a lot like calling out in the darkness hoping for a response. Being a writer is an intensely lonely process, because nobody can fathom the work involved, the tireless edits and revisions, the exhausting questions that wear away at my brain until I can feel the neurons fraying. Which brings me to my second point. Offer criticism. It’s far more useful than empty praise. And I don’t mean, “Hey, you suck!” I mean, offer direction, tell me how a story affected you or didn’t, how a character moved you or left you cold, and why. Sometimes, a single honest piece of advice can soothe the doubt from my mind for a lifetime. For instance, I ask myself, Is my writing easy to understand? Or is it too poetic? When one of my fans told me, “Your writing is very smooth,” (thank you, Noelle Lew) I knew I could move forward with greater confidence than before. Input like that is invaluable. Unimaginably so.
Sometimes I’ll meet someone months or years after sending them a story, and they’ll come to me and say, “Hey, I really liked that book,” and my response to them is, “WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T YOU TELL ME? CAN YOU NOT POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND HOW IMPORTANT THAT IS TO ME?” But in reality, I just nod slowly, offering a timid, “Oh, really? You read that? Ha ha ha . . . yeah, thanks.”
The point is this, I know you’re busy, and I know some of you don’t care about fiction, don’t in fact read anything but newspaper headlines and STOP signs; but if you have a friend or family member who writes, and you have been known to pick up the occasional bestseller church conspiracy/sexy vampire/S&M bondage novel, don’t underestimate how important your feedback is to them. Having a writer friend, brother, sister, mother, father, cousin etc. and not giving them feedback is like watching them standing in the rain from your bedroom window without ever offering them into your home. Essentially, you’re not a friend and you don’t care about them, OR, you have no clue what they’re going through, which is why I ultimately forgive and keep my friends, because I assume they just don’t know, which is why I felt I had to make this post. You know, sour grapes.
Nick, Now this is writing! Great piece. Well written, interesting, true and very, very smooth (huhuhuhu). Funny how anger sometimes brings forth a style of writing yet unused. At least not often. This piece was written from the heart. From deep down there, with your gut. With disillusion. Maybe even pain. But the passion that drives you is the passion that will make you carry on.
It's still early in the morning here in Cyprus, as in Cyprus the country. I haven't had my coffee yet. So, choice denied, I cannot keep a clear head.
Nowadays, fiction’s made easy. Not writing fiction, mind you. Reading. So easy, it’s like normality, as is the rest of our pathetic little life, at least for some of us. You know what I mean; wake up, go to work, get home, sleep, go to work, get home, sleep, go to work, etc etc etc. I think you got it.
Stories are unbundled every day at tremendous speed. Hundreds, thousands, should I dare write even millions? Well, if you count in the various newspaper posts. And for that same reason, we should all save ourselves the misery and devastation of our spirit; we must choose wisely who to read and who not. Feedback is valuable; it is given to whoever we want to, whenever we want to, wherever we want to. Period.
I think Mr. Alimonos deserves some feedback. This little narration from him came as no surprise to me. But still, I have given my fair share of reviews to this fine gentleman; or so I thought up until a few moments ago.
Yes, I do understand the complexity of a writer’s soul. Yes, I do comprehend the dangers that hinder a writer’s inspiration. Yes, I do empathize with writers that get little to no feedback, for I am one of them.
OK, I will try my best this time. I’ve been saving “Ages of Aenya” for a thorough read later this year, since my pile of to-read-list just gets taller and taller each and every time I open amazon’s website. Or when I read an article from Mr. Alimonos regarding the ultimate fantasy novels, and unhappily find out that half of them are still shelved unruffled in my library.
So, till the next time. Ta ta.
I know how hard you have worked to move your project to this point. The times, when I've felt moved to publicly critique 'Enya, I haven't found words I thought were equal to the task. Knowing how devoted you've been to this project, I have felt very cautious about approaching it, critically.
As I approach my own projects, I am reminded of the delicacy of what we create, as artists. We share something with the world that springs, Minerva-like, from some deeply personal inner place and hope someone out there catches it and cherishes it, as we have. To a lesser extent, we hope that the world's regard for our art reflects well upon us – that, in man's contemplation and digestion of our work, he might think us geniuses ..or, at least, deserving of celebration.
For this reason, it is so important that an artist surrounds himself with a community of fellow artists, who share his passion and appreciate and celebrate his courage, ..even when the world does not.
Nick you are a diabolically inventive, courageous and a very intellectually naked artist, who never ceases to amaze us. Even if we don't say it enough, we cherish you for all of the above.
Thank you for the comment, Noelle. It would be ironic if my post entitled “No comments:” had no comments, but so much for irony. Interestingly enough, your response illustrates my point. For the past several years, one of those things that's been grating my brain is how much I should be writing from “the heart” as opposed to the brain. Most of the writing books out there say “brain-brain-brain” and in fact, one of my college course books argued that there isn't such thing as inspiration. But the truth, I feel, is somewhere in the middle. Strictly cerebral writing is often dull, but overly passionate work, like my earliest work, can seem like ranting, muddled and confusing. When I wrote “What Naturism Means to Me” I did it with no planning whatsoever; I just sat down and did it. That post has so far garnered 4500+ reads and 12 comments. Sure, naturism is a subject that many are curious about but few have the courage to discuss, thus it's popularity, but I am proud of the post regardless. I guess I am trying to say, in a roundabout way, that your post will help me to trust my heart more, even in my fiction. So thank you.
You may not realize this, Aris, but if you never talk to me again after this, I will remain content that I could somehow reach you, from thousands of miles across the planet. What a remarkable thing! Sharing meaningful dialogue with a stranger you would have never otherwise met. This is the very best of what the Internet has offered humanity, buried among all the stupid Facebook jokes and the porn. But my anger, if you can call it that (it's more like disappointment) was never directed at you. You are one of those wonderful surprises; a complete stranger who has helped me more than many of my closest friends. Who are you anyway? Maybe we share a kindred spirit, a “writer's disease” so to speak. Either way, you've been a fan, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I LIKE this guy, Nick Alimonos.
I've 'Liked' him and celebrated his work, long before there was a thumbs-up icon to click on Facebook, and I have publicly said so, many times, on forums he was too busy to bother with. I have called him the first fiction author of Miniternia, ..a He-Man fan movement that globally rekindled interest in the Masters franchise, floundering since its failed revival in 2002. Mattel's present retrospective was launched, after extensive research discovered fan interest in He-Man's barbarian origins -the same origins, which inspired Nick's 'City By The Sea', ..a story, which inspired me to start a website, celebrating He-Man's dark orgins, that eventually became 'He-Man Tales'.
Like the greatest artists, Nick Alimonos's vanity sometimes gets the better of him, ..but, he is also possessed of great courage, honesty, passion and artistic curiosity, ..and I adore these things about Nick, as much as I have indulged them for nearly a decade.
Some of you may remember, when I was banned by the largest Masters fan community online, He-Man.org, severely crippling attempts to publicize my own lesser-known website, Eternia Minor, ..at a time, when Nick's own Grayskull Library carried no links to my site. Below, is the last post I (Mirck Dyer) made to He-Man.org, before I was banned for posting links to Nick's Amazon.com site, where he was distributing DARK AGE of ENYA. Despite private, off-forum warnings not to do so, I wrote a lengthy and detailed review of DARK AGE at the end of the thread, only to find (later) that it had been deleted by the moderator, ..and that I had been promptly banned 'for LIFE'.
Maybe, I haven't been a fixture here at 'The Writer's Disease' blog, ..but, I have been a true and loyal friend, long before this blog. Despite that my acts of friendship sometimes go unnoticed, I will continue to be so.
Mel, I just wanted to say that when you were making Eternia Minor, my site, “The Grayskull Library” was a thing of the past. Sure, it was up and running, but I'd already moved on to my own fiction. Even though I enjoyed the positive feedback from my He-Man fans, I knew that I could never fully develop as a writer if I were to forever shackle myself to an established franchise. At some point, I did consider my novel a loosely based MOTU fanfic, but that is also why I set it 500 years in the past, so I could be free to write what I wanted without worrying about copyright infringement. The idea was that I could take inspiration from the setting, much as Tolkien based his “Lord of the Rings” on British and Germanic folktales. After all, Tolkien did not invent elves, dwarves or orcs. Ultimately, I realized that to be truly independent, I had to sever all ties between my novel and the TV show I loved as a child. The MOTU universe possesses its own history/geography; its own tone and themes that set it apart from the world I was, and still am, creating.