Accepting Compliments

First off, I feel the need to ask if I’m the only person who has to constantly check to make sure he’s using the right word when writing compliment or complement…

Which feels like a fantastic segue into talking about coming to terms with my own writing abilities. I know I’ve talked on here before about the concept of feeling like a fraud. That although I’ve received accolades and personal comments regarding my writing over the years, I still, for whatever reason, find myself thinking that it’s all crap. Which, of course, makes it incredibly awkward whenever I receive a compliment of any type over my writing, because, well, I still don’t believe it myself, even if I find great pride in all the things I’ve done with my writing.

Over the past week, I’ve actually received a number of compliments. First, one of the rejection letters I received from a literary agent made the comment about how, although they didn’t think they were the right person to help sell my book, they thought the book was something “that should be out there” and that “the time may indeed be right for this type of story”. Those are awesome things to hear. And since I got this email while I was sitting around a table remembering the life of my aunt, it was impeccably timed.

Also, the professor for my music class keeps beaming about my writing, so much so that she put a comment on a recent concert review I wrote that I could “do this professionally”, causing me to wonder how in the world one gets that job.

But finally, last week we had a table read for my recently completed play, which will be performed this coming January. While I was unable to attend because of traveling for the funeral, I received comments from people I had never even talked to before about how much fun they had with it, and how straight up funny it was. These are not words I thought I’d ever hear about my writing, especially not from people whose names I never even learned.

In short, the past week has been pretty great for feeling propped up about my writing, even if I’m ultimately still in the same place of uncertainty regarding how to move forward with making it a profitable venture. It would appear that my years dedicated to putting words to the page have paid off and people are actually noticing. And that’s awesome.

But I still find myself questioning the legitimacy of it all. Obviously that’s stupid. Not a single one of these people have any reason to try and make me feel better about my writing. The agent could have just sent the same form letter every other agent sends. The teacher could have simply posted the grade and gone about her day. And the people who read through my script, well, they actually sought me out to tell me their thoughts. They started conversations that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for them wanting to let me know what they thought. Heck, they would have had to have asked someone who I was in order to even be able to know who to talk to as I walked into the theatre building with my mask on.

These are all people who simply appreciated my writing enough to give me a compliment and all I can do is stammer some sort of ridiculous response back, not knowing how to feel about the whole thing. I’ve spent the past week in this awkward combination of joy because people are loving my writing and sadness because it has to all be a sham somehow.

I’m really bad at accepting compliments.

I guess it’s good that I don’t write for the accolades, because no matter how much I love them, I’m really bad at accepting them as truth.

However, for all of you who have sent me similar messages over the years, only to have me mumble thanks and look toward the floor, causing you to wonder whether you somehow hurt my feelings: Thanks. Thanks for going out of your way to let me know how my writing made you feel. I’m still working on figuring out how to respond to these moments in a way which fully expresses how awesome it is (even if there’s that stupid part of my brain which wants to tell me its all a lie). But the truth is, it is always the best moment of any day that it happens. I always have to text my wife immediately to let her know. That’s how important it is for me. For the past week, I’ve been living on a cloud of pride, knowing that while I’m sitting here getting rejection after rejection from literary agents, I’ve still got people who are enjoying my art.

Here’s hoping I can find a way to get it into the hands of even more people yet.

Published by Adam Oster, Adventure Novelist

Husband, Father, Creator/Destroyer of Worlds

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