English: Attention Icon.

In my last post, a lovely reader commented that writers seem to want an inordinate amount of attention. Here’s a snippet of Mr. Rob Garbin’s comment directly:

Another aspect that I learned about the creative is that we tend to want and need more attention.

Emphasis mine.

As much as I want to agree with this statement, do we really? Do we really need more attention than say the average cashier at your local grocery store?

This may be a defensive reaction, but I believe that we writers and artists of similar ilk actually just want the same attention we might get at our day jobs.

Here’s an example:

When a colleague asks that I assembly a spatial data set of, say, geochemical data, and then ask me to analysis that data for areas of concentration and distribution while displaying it on a map that not only they can understand but managers as well, they often give me high praise when they see the product. Not only do they say “Thank you” and “Great work”, but I get paid.

Imagine that. They value my work.

Just as much as a store manager values a cashier. They get paid for their time to do a good job of ringing up items customers want to buy. Okay, maybe not very much more than minimum wage, but they do get paid! And they are probably told numerous times a day they are doing a good job (if they are, of course).

Getting paid every day for our work affirms that someone, somewhere, values what we do – be that a technical map or providing a service. And there’s always the little, everyday statements of “thank you” and “good job” that we often take for granted and throw about to our colleagues as if they don’t matter.

But they do. We become accustomed to that everyday feedback and, dare I say it, positive attention.

A piece of writing is essentially no different. However, it is a visually consumable product that may or may not have a lasting impression, and as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Same with the value of that writing. The value is in the eye of the beholder. A reader may deem it is not even worthy of their attention. There is also a disconnect between the writer and reader. The former could be centuries dead and the latter a girl in suburbia San Diego. The two shall never meet, and the girl will never be able to tell that author how much she enjoyed their story.

I think this is where writers, myself included, fall into a bit of a trap. We want our work to be noticed just like we are in our day jobs, but getting that attention is like pulling teeth, or damn near impossible. And it definitely will not come on a daily basis. So, we scream and holler and grovel and say, “Please, please, please, please read my story. Someone? Anyone?”

And though it may seem we are asking for “more attention” that others, I believe we are not. We are simply asking for equal treatment.

Mr. Garbin touched a bit on this subject in a recent blog post. He advises his readers to be careful where we invest our self-worth, and rightly so, says we should eschew attaching “your worth to anything outside yourself.” To do so is folly, of course. I think we can all agree on that. But how can a writer not do that with their writing? How can we learn to write a story to the best of our ability and then trust to let it out into the wild, blue yonder without following it around everywhere it goes and asking the reader for feedback? How do we not look like attention whores when all we ask is for the same amount of attention we get for other things of value we do? Is this something that comes with experience and confidence?

If you have an answer, please enlighten me. Or ignore me. You know I’m just trying to get me some attention.

Until next time, don’t open up any mail with a return addressee of James Holmes.😦