I've been saying "sorry" for as long as I can remember. I think it stems from the fact that I'm a middle child and we like to keep the peace. I apologized for things that I didn't even do because it was the easiest way forward. It wasn't out of fear of confrontation as much as it was the desire for peace and harmony. I think it's fair to say we've all done our share of apologizing for things we've done or said when we weren't in the wrong, but our truth simply made someone else uncomfortable. A friend of mine sent me this quote the other day and it got me thinking.
I knew the situation she was referring to and I wondered why I apologized for things that I didn't do or wasn't at fault for just to 'keep the peace.' It's fair to say that one of the largest groups of people who do this on a daily basis is Indie authors. We apologize to readers who think our books are too this or not enough of that when we don't owe an apology to anyone. We write what we write the same as authors from large publishing houses, but the arrows hit much closer to home for Indies. We are the publishing house from beginning to end, so we're the ones who see and process the good, the bad, and the ugly from readers. I have one particular book that because of the cover, everyone thought it was a 'clean' read (I actually have many, many of these but I am just picking one example) and I have gotten some scathing reviews and been approached via my inbox and social media because the book wasn't clean. I had my fingers posed over the keyboard to apologize when that quote came back to me and I thought,
Why was I going to apologize for a misconception someone had about my work when it was never implied that the content of the book was anything other than what I said it was? That's not my fault, but apologizing for it would make it my fault. You don't see Stephen King apologizing for making something too scary or not scary enough. He unapologetically releases his creations into the world for people to consume with the knowledge that some are going to hate it in equal proportions to those who will love it.
Then, this weekend, I read a post by an Indie author who while never uttering the words 'I'm sorry' spent an entire blog post apologizing for taking their career in a new direction. it struck me that there was no reason any of us have to justify to readers why we're moving in a different direction. Want to write in a different genre? Do it. Want to rebrand your platform because of a change in your life. Do it. Just don't apologize for it. For ten years, I've tried to write to the idea that 1/3 of the people will love me, 1/3 will hate me and 1/3 will be indifferent to me. Honestly, that 1/3 that hate me were really hard to encounter the first few times and I found myself wondering if apologizing would make them like me. Then I realized,
An apology is not going to make someone like me, especially when I'm not actually sorry. I've learned over the years that the 1/3-idea holds true in life just as much as in books. You don't always realize it because you don't start counting off people in your life who love/hate/put up with you (I think I have a lot of the last 1/3!). But over the ten years I've been putting my creative content out into the world, I can see by the reviews that 1/3 of the people love me and read everything I write, a 1/3 of the people really, really despise what I write and take every chance to tell others, and 1/3 of the people read every book I write but also give every single one of them 3 stars (come on writer friends, I know you have some too!).
My word for 2022 is reinvent. I know that will mean adding to my 1/3 of the people who hate me, but I hope that I also add a few to the 1/3 who love me. Either way, I'm not going to apologize for writing my way, my truth, and my creative content anymore. I hope you'll join me and retire the word sorry from your vocabulary when you're really not sorry. Write what you want to write knowing 1/3 of the people who read it will love it, and don't waste words on those whose minds you'll never change. Don't take criticism from someone you wouldn't go to for advice. Read that again. When you let that full statement sink in, it's life changing. I wish someone had said it to me before I was 46, but now that they have, I will be mindful of the pen I hold as I reinvent myself this year. When the haters come calling, think of that sentence and remember the pen will continue to be mightier than the sword if you're unapologetically writing your truth.
TL:DR- Stop apologizing for things that aren't your fault. You won't change someone's mind with an "I'm sorry." Indie authors: Stop apologizing for work you're proud of when the haters come calling. Write to the 1/3 of the people who don't demand apologizes for something they chose to consume. The end.
Katie Mettner writes small-town romantic tales, filled with epic love stories and happily-ever-afters.
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