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….