Monday, February 9, 2009

When Silence Is Not So Golden

Tonight, just for a change (cough), I was thinking about my book. Someone I had asked to read it rang and passed a message on to me, something along the lines of 'I've read your book - I have some comments'. After that I lay on the couch and allowed myself to dip my toe (not wallow mind you) in a bit of self-pity. I found myself thinking how nice it would have been if the message had said something slightly different - say, along the lines of 'I read your book, it was really good - I have some comments', or 'I read your book, I really enjoyed it - I have some comments'. Normally I would take such an omission in my stride, and just assume the person wanted to convey a message quickly and without embelishment, but I fear I see a pattern forming here.

Since July I've been taking each draft to a small print shop that's spitting distance from my work: very handy, quite cheap and they do a first-class job. I would chat to the lady behind the counter, and over time she would recognise me and ask how the book was going and whether it had gone to a publisher yet, all with a sense of giddy excitement that I found quite heartening. The last time when I was getting copies made she asked if she could run off one for herself, so she could have a read. I was a bit taken aback, but said she was welcome to. When I picked up my copies she told me she had one for herself and would read it over the weekend. That was mid December. I have no idea whether she did read it, but I suppose I was expecting some form of comment, seeing as my email address was plastered all over the title-page. Perhaps she felt it wasn't appropriate to contact me without asking - perhaps she's waiting for me to pop into the shop again so she can tell me what she thought. Who knows?

But somehow in my fragile state of mind I can't help but see these silences as ominous, and portents of bad news. Every writer dreams of handing out a manuscript and receiving a breathless phone-call from someone (preferably a publisher) in the dead of night, tearfully telling them that their book was sheer perfection captured in ink. But even us dreamers know that doesn't often happen. I like to think of myself as realistic, and pragmatic, and also someone who has at least a vague understanding of humanity. So even though I might dream of the breathless phonecall, I don't expect it, and I don't see its absence as a bad sign. But when someone doesn't even say 'it was good' or 'I enjoyed it' in a context where it would be quite normal to do so, or when someone doesn't say anything at all, then the whole pragmatic/realistic thing gets harder to pull off.

Part of my problem is that I had prepared myself to deal with positive feedback, and I had prepared myself to deal with negative feedback - but I had no contingency for dealing with an absence of feedback. I think that's why I'm so desperate to hear from the assessor, because she's one person I know won't be silent. Then at least I'll know where I stand.

"The Assessor", hmmmm, sounds like a great name for a fantasy baddie.... might have to remember that one.

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