It's a hard life - the perils of a 'writer'

I can guarantee that, as you're reading this sentence, I'm eagerly refreshing my 'stats' page to see how many of you discerning people have read my blog. I can also assure you that I'm not the only Blogger to do so, I'm just stupid enough to admit it.
Receiving a compliment about my blog makes me happier than Ian Hislop getting sued by Piers Morgan. It makes me feel that, in a world of ground-breaking technological and scientific advancements, I have my own little way of contributing something - imagine a tumultuous, squeaking mouse in a field of horses.  I've also recently discovered that, as I presume many writers do, I have a slight need for the gratifying feeling of a compliment. 
Anyone who is creative will see their work subject to criticism and compliments. You can't really say that much about an accountant's latest...accounts... but an article or a painting leaves people welcome to voice their opinions. And there's very little that the human race enjoys more than passing judgement. I always wonder whether I'm really cut out to be a writer - I thought that three years of journalism left me immune to criticism. However, a few months ago whilst I was job-hunting, I did some freelance copywriting. I wrote a 250 word article and got paid £2.50 - so it could have been forgiveable that I may have skimmed over the research part. When someone then left a comment online, telling me my article was incorrect and that I should have done my research better - the pain seared through me. It was a horrible feeling, a mixture of exasperation and reluctant acceptance that he was right.  
I could attempt to delve into the possible psychological reasons as to why some people, predominantly those who are creative, feed off praise. I could question what it is about the human condition that leaves us so reliant on compliments and so fearful of impertinent criticism. Instead, I'm going to give you a few examples, courtesy of The Guardian, of why I shall never again pay attention to criticism, unless it is of someone credible. To conclude, the bored and bitter readers are a writer's worst enemy:

The pedantic prowler:
This is a light-hearted article, whereby the reader talks about having to read a book in candle-light due to a power-cut. A reader quotes a part of the article:
 'It struck me that this was how people had read for almost all of the time that people have been reading: in darkness, slowly, concentrating, and more sensitive to the subtle interplay between what was on the page and what appeared to be on the page.' 
...and then says: 'Surely, in the past, reading would normally have been done during the day. Medieval scriptora, for example, functioned only during daylight hours as candles were banned from being taken inside (for obvious reasons). I suspect that reading - particular reading for leisure - in the hours of darkness would itself be something of an artifact of gas or electric light, and not something that would have been common before the twentieth century.'

The Laconic Pessimist: 
On a nice, happy article about it never being too late to exercise, one reader observed:
'No amount of exercise can offset your genes.'
One man whose writing is certain to perpetually attract idiots is Charlie Brooker. It seems that his penchant for pointing out the shortcomings of the human race only exacerbates the idiocy of the human race. Cue beautiful irony. In his latest column entry he writes about New Year's resolutions, listing a few that he hopes the rest of the world will attempt to do. 

The Confused Commenter:
Given this name because they obviously dislike the author, these readers can't help their morbid fascination:
'How about same as 2010, switch off TV/Radio at the merest hint of an appearance by Charlie Brooker'?'
'I didn't laugh once at Screenwipe 2011 and I didn't get the last two black mirror's.'

At least it's a career choice that will never be boring, and for those who write anything slightly tinged with controversy or opinion, at least material will come to you. 

"'I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees for every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living.

They are: Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc. It is humbug to pretend that this is not a motive, and a strong one." - George Orwell


  1. "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat"

    That said, I think it is important to try and maintain a mindset where, if you are writing, you imagine what questions may come up, and if you can actually back them up. I spend a lot of time on internet forums. Have done since 2002/3. Pick the right ones and you can learn a lot about constructing arguments. I have learnt and changed a lot since 2002. A lot of it down to arguing on internet forums, over current events. But, I think the most important job of a writer is to be provocative. Thats where the creativity is for me. Challenging people. Making them question themselves and the world around them.
    Your columns are great, though, and I do enjoy reading them.

  2. Thank you, Gareth. I like that quote! I agree, there's no point writing if you're just going to always play it safe.