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 [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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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.”

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