This is a guest post by my co-writer Alena, which she wrote in answer to a post by Sarah Rees Brennan (thanks to you, Alena, for that wonderful post – couldn’t say it any better!).
I thank Sarah Rees Brennan for her post on the criticism mostly female writers face, especially after she has been writing fanfiction at some point. I do agree with Sarah that women often face much harsher criticism than men, and here’s one thing I’d like to add to that:
I’m a writer myself, but not yet published, so I haven’t received that much criticism of my work. I don’t really know what it’s like, but sometimes I wonder why we females tend to feel obliged to justify and explain ourselves, our work, the things that we love and do, to anyone, all the time. I don’t think any of the men I know would have bothered to go to the lengths Sarah did with her post (and quite literally – that post was enormous!) to justify their work, the choices they’d made, or why what they were doing was worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong – I’m totally grateful Sarah wrote that post (and I love her writing, and am a regular visitor to her blog, and think that she is a very talented lady!). In my opinion, it’s extremely helpful for aspiring writers like me to get her insight into what it can be like to be out there in the open with your work, and to face people who try to make you feel bad about yourself or your work.
Thing is – I don’t think those people who randomly hate us for being female, and passionate, and ambitious and – God forbid – talented! – can be convinced by all our explaining. I don’t blame Sarah or anyone else for trying to anyway, and I do it myself, all the time. Just the other day, a girl I know asked me about my writing and I told her a little because she seemed genuinely interested. Only that afterwards, she started telling me she thought I was doing it all wrong, the way I organised myself, the way I organised my novel, they way I picked my topics, etc. She isn’t a writer, and has never read a single word of my writing. But she was convinced I was doing it wrong (for reasons I still haven’t fully understood – I suppose it has something to do with being a writer and actually daring to admit I kind of wish my writing will be commercially successful at some point – I won’t go into detail here; Sarah blogged about female writers and commercial success a while ago herself – loved that post too!). I tried very hard to actually justifying my work in front of that girl. And then I felt bad about it, because she wasn’t convinced.
No male writer would’ve done that, I’m sure. Girls tend to justify their dreams, hopes, even achievements, all the time. People might actually think we believe we deserve it, how horrible would that be?
Bottom line, what I’m trying to say is this: I wish girls would stop explaining and justifying themselves and their work so much. Let people hate you for whatever – they will anyway, if you’re talented, and ambitious, and make yourself vulnerable by putting your work out there in the open, no matter if as a published author, or a fanfiction writer, or whatever. Just don’t let them stop you from doing it, and don’t feel bad about yourself because someone out there wants to make you believe that.
So thanks again, Sarah, for addressing these issues over and over again, and making girls aware it’s okay to stand up for their own work!