Accepting Compliments

I have to work on accepting compliments about my writing.

It’s weird to think of that as a skill that one must acquire, but the more I talk to people about my writing, the more I realize how difficult it is to walk the fine line between sounding like you’re bragging, and unrealistic self-deprecation. The problem is worse, I think, for women; part of our socialization, in most places in the world, includes being modest about our abilities and our hard work. There’s a reason why women in the nineteenth century championed housewifery/domestic science as a real job; there’s a reason why Nora Roberts, in her futuristic Eve Dallas series, often mentions the “professional mother.” Because women’s work is so devalued, I’ve find it’s often a reflex (particularly when I’m uncomfortable in a situation) to immediately downplay any compliment I receive.

Fictional person at bookstore: “I really loved the plot of Your Great American Novel.”

Fictional author: “I’m still learning about plot, but I did have fun experimenting with it in that book.”

Sure, that response acknowledges weakness the author perceives in the novel, and feels honest, but it also takes away, a little, from pleasure in the compliment for both people involved. That response doesn’t give the author a glow of happiness that someone liked her plot; instead the glow is washed away by self-criticism. Nor does that response clearly acknowledge to the giver that the compliment was appreciated.

Then there’s simply agreeing with the compliment: “Why, yes, I am totally awesome!” Even if you really believe you’re awesome…to me, it seems just a tad rude. Even though you are merely agreeing with the complimenter…no. Perhaps for others. Not for me.

The only thing I’ve been able to think of to say, that’s suitable for all sorts of compliments, is “thank you.”

Or you can just try Harry-the-Puppet’s method of dealing with criticism….

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. Her blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and occasional author interviews.
This entry was posted in business of writing, women. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Accepting Compliments

  1. Magdalen says:

    Compliment the complimenter — say something like, “Wow, you don’t know how wonderful it is to hear from fans. You guys are the reason I keep writing. Thank you so much for saying that…” or a variant thereof.

    Of course, that’s theoretical advice, as this is not a situation I’ve had to deal with. :-)

  2. That IS good advice. Extra-good because it’s true – “you can’t imagine how good it feels to have a reader say that.”

Comments are closed.