“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
Ask anyone who penned this famous phrase, and the hair trigger response is President Abraham Lincoln. However, this quote was written by poet John Lydgate and later used by Lincoln which no doubt accounts for its popularity and continued use in contemporary settings. While I’m sure President Lincoln had something different in mind than what I do, I like to think John Lydgate and I were of similar opinions being that he was a poet.
Returning readers of this blog are familiar with my recent foray into the world of on line writing. Permit me to digress for a moment. As soon as I typed the first sentence of this third paragraph, I made myself smile. It seems such a haughty way to say I joined an on line writer’s group and post my stories there for fans to read. However, for those of you who know me on a personal level, you know I have a tendency to use expansive vocabulary whether the occasion calls for it or not. This was a habit instilled in me at an early age by my father who always placed a premium on being well spoken. And I assure you, I speak to my own children in much the same way, often sending them running for the dictionary app of their Iphones. Dictionary app! Let’s not go off on that tangent.
Now, as I was saying, I’m a member of an online community that allows me to post as many or as few of my stories as I like. Since joining this group last year, I’ve enjoyed much success and admiration. Fans have flocked to my work to give me validation in a way that agents and publishers can’t or won’t. While I don’t receive any monetary compensation, I think having a fan base reading my work far outweighs that aspect. After all, what good do stories sitting in computer files do me? The result is the same whether I take a chance and share in this on line community or I allow them to sit unread in my hard drive.
Over the past weekend, I posted the final chapter of the first of a four book vampire series I’ve written. Yes, I know, vampires are cliché and overdone, but that’s a discussion best saved for another time. The feedback I received on this chapter was so varied it immediately brought Lydgate’s quote to my mind. Some readers were outraged there was a cliffhanger ending with unanswered questions. Others were outraged the heroine didn’t end up with her beloved. Still other readers loved its originality and praised me for not tying everything up in a neat little package.
Let me be clear about one thing. I value all feedback, whether it’s good or bad. Without readers, I’m a writer with no audience which isn’t very fulfilling. I love to log into the site and see what fans are saying, but I do confess I’m happier when it’s ego boosting. Even when fans are appalled at a plot twist, I relish their input. The fact that they’d be so offended on behalf of their favorite character demonstrates an emotional investment in the story, which gives me a reason to continue writing. Still, with so much variety in the reader responses, it really drives home Lydgate’s famous quote.
As a writer, and in any other role I suppose, I can please some of the people some of the time. I can please all the people some of the time, but I’ll never be able to please all of the people all of the time. You know what? As long as I have fans who are reading my work, I’m okay with that. I can’t be the first writer to run into this, and I doubt I’ll be the last.