When I say I don’t want compliments….

Today in Uncomfortable Self Awareness Revelations: I have finally figured out why I end up feeling worse after asking for feedback than when I struggle in solitude. In the immortal words of The Captain from Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” It’s a problem of definitions. To me, feedback means “providing facts, data points, specifics, examples, ”  To so many others, it means, “Say something nice and/or encouraging.”  I ask for honest feedback. I get praise. It makes me weep.

Generalities are like grains of sand inside my mental shoes. They chafe and grate and rub me raw. They require interpretation and are filled with irritating, incomprehensible nuance. I love interpreting nuances of meaning as an intellectual exercise, but as soon as my emotions are engaged, the stress builds high.

Facts are solid, sturdy things that can easily be passed from person to person without much distortion. Praise is fragile and slippery, so it all too easily falls into the deep emotional hole labeled “polite lies said by people who secretly pity you and want you to go away.” Once it’s in that pit of despair,  it feeds the flames of self-doubt.

Facts seal doubt away, burying it under a solid flow of data. The flow will sometimes hammer my ego to the floor at the same time, but that pit of doubt? It’s still filled. 

I cannot reliably interpret general compliments, however honest they may be. They’re indistinguishable  from polite lies or veiled insults regardless of their objective truth. I can’t tell them apart from their painful cousins, so they end up in the same place. The emotional moat praise must cross to reach my heart is life-deep.

Building a bridge over that gaping pit takes a lot of specific fact-bricks and a LOT of trust. I have to deeply trust people before I believe praise from them–and that trust has to be built and rebuilt with lots and lot of fact bricks every time an ego quake brings all the confidence crashing down. It takes tireless effort to build a bridge strong enough for compliments to safely cross over.

I can only think of five people who’ve built a bridge like that, ever. I married one of them.
I can adult when necessary. Except in extreme circumstances, I will manage courteous thanks and a polite semblence of gratitude for praise-y generalizations. But since you’ve gotten this far, I’ll tell you a little secret: I’m usually not thrilled. I’m not grateful.  I’m often bruised deep inside, and my trust will take a long time to heal.

Give me specifics, or give me silence. I’m entirely unreasonable that way. 


Again with the negative waves, Moriarty?

You know what gets my goat? Not haters, no. What gets me down are the happythink police who conflate negativity with abuse. Can’t be kind 24/7/365? They’ll tell me to stay apart and shut up. Might as well slap a big red “N” on my bodice and be done, but no. The judgmental assault on my chosen way of handling harsh reality–on my very identity–is all wrapped up in good intentions. 

Being told I’m unacceptable isn’t mean to be hurtful, I’m told. (And yes, I do get publicly lectured for raining on the positivity parade.) Demanding that others be positive at all times is only an emotional defense, it’s said. Insistence on constant happythink is an attempt to make the world better for everyone. 

Nuh-uh. Nope. That bullshit doesn’t fly. Defenses are self-oriented. Shine a light on inner darkness. Erect walls of happy. Paint rays of sunshine on them. Collect positives. Be positive. Those are all defensive measures.  Issuing directives to others about tone and presentation is all about suppression, dismissal and exercising social power. It’s offensive, not defensive. And yes, I mean offensive in all senses. 

 The dismissal of criticism with abuse scares me most. The emerging insistence that negatives must be presented with kindness to be considered valid/constructive/legitimate sets perilous precedents. Lumping true criticism in with destructive hostility gives trolls a shield to hide behind. (See also: “I’m just trying to be helpful.” “Fair and balanced.” “It’s just my opinion.”)

Abuse is not analytical. Criticism is. Solutions can’t be framed without undertanding the problem. The rest…that’s just style points. The definition of criticism as applied to art is “an analysis of merits and faults.” Any commentary failing that simple definition is an abusive attack dressed up in a criticism-costume.  Any commentary meeting it is criticism. A negative that leads to positive. It’s the manure every garden needs.

Here’s a less stinky analogy. Offering harsh analysis on a steely platter instead of a fluffy blanket does not make it an attack. Frank presentation of faults can be painful, but gentleness can be too. Ask anyone who’s suffered the attentions of a tentative nurse trying to find a vein. 

 It is not always constructive to mention merits. Sometimes, yes, even often, but expecting faults to be left unmentioned unless equal merits are pointed out isn’t reasonable. “If you have to say something bad, always say something good” is like saying, “If I want to discuss astronomy, I need to allow an astrologist on the panel too. For balance.” No. Merits do not always balance faults. One may far outnumber the other, and weak praise is damning. Ask Shakespeare. 

Demanding adept diplomacy as well as the effort of analysis makes people far less willing to offer criticism at all. And when that happens, art suffers. 

Here’s a related problem: insisting that only praise counts as constructive criticism. Dressing up negative analysis with puffy praise stickers doesn’t make it constructive. Context does. Constructive criticism is analysis offered while a work can be rebuilt. A critical review is aimed at the audience/market for a finished product. Period. That’s the only difference. Criticism type is defined by situation, not presentation.

If a review contains nothing but complaints, that’s as valid as one that holds nothing but praise. The only difference is in how the author feels about it. And constructive criticism that focuses with laser precision on faults is no different in function than a critique that dwells on only positives. (Again, please remember that this refers only to analytical commentary. Not things like, “This sucks.”) 
 I’ve saved the worst for last. I loathe the hoary chestnut, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything.”  If there’s ever a vote for which statement best encapsulates all that is wrong with the modern world, this one gets my nomination. It equates a lack of praise with tacit disapproval. What a mess! It creates an emotional imbalance that requires hearing praise simply to stay centered, and that leads to an escalating need for praise. Knowing that silence means people might be holding back unkind things plants seeds of doubt as destructive as dragon’s teeth.

It’s a persistent little belief, too. So popular. So hard to eradicate. Took me years to get that one out of my system.  

Creativity lives in the still, quiet spaces of the soul as well as in the raging power of anger and pain, just as it resonates in joys and flights of spirit. Silence should feed fragile inspiration, not destroy it with doubt. 

If you can’t say anything nice, say it as nicely as possible, but say it, so the listener knows that silence is not hiding unspoken faults. Trust is built with painful truths, not false walls. When silence means tacit acceptance,  confidence builds slowly with every layer of sedimentary quiet. That’s golden.

For every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven. Even the bad stuff. That’s why I’ll keep on broadcasting my negative waves whenever the situation calls for them.


A Top Five List, Some Resolutions, and The Usual

First, my Top Five Happies for the Week. To prove I can rejoice in the phenomenal goodness in my life. I will be doing my best to post this feature regularly. Not because I believe in RightThink or the power of positive thinking, no. The inventory changes nothing. It’s a list, not a magic spell.

Counting my blessings does ground me in clean emotional soil and gives me a solid foundation for creative focus. Tidying up the mind by putting the trophies on a shelf opens up space for other thoughts and feelings. Call it clearing the deck. Here are my big five this week:

5. I wake up every day with 3/5’s of my Mazlow’s hierarchy covered plus a little. That is more than I ever dreamed of achieving at multiple points in my life. It’s amazing, and I am infinitely thankful.

3. Three lovely reviews went up for Novices from people who have no personal investment in pleasing or placating me. Three people went to the effort of casting a vote of confidence in me. That will never stop astonishing and humbling me.

2. A blogger posted a rave review for Controlled Descent and gave me interview exposure–again, this comes from someone who knows me only from my words. Yes, that makes a difference in the emotional weight it carries. Affirmation is always best served on a bed of cool objectivity.

1. Surprise outreach & deeply meaningful gifts on my birthday from peers and fans. I don’t want lawyers breathing down my neck, so I won’t post the picture of Spiderman reading my novel, but it’s my screen wallpaper now. Anything that can displace Tony Stark…well. That’s special.

The Pundits Who Advise The World On Everything say I should stop there and only show the happy side of myself. “Curate your image online,” they counsel. Catch readers with honey, not vinegar. Think Happy Thoughts.

Me. All knotty ‘n stuff.

Not going to happen. I can hold gratitude and frustration together in my two hands at once. I feel joy and sorrow together more often than not. I refuse to cram my emotions and experiences onto some cosmic balancing scale. They are more complex than weights and measures. The “good” and the “bad” in my life are intertwined, knotted and inextricable, changing with every breath and beat of existence. I refuse to pretend otherwise.

I am a demanding, intense, expressive, assertive force of creation, and I will not be confined by nice. When it comes to online interaction, I am not feeling love, and it’s time to deal with that issue.

Some people make New Year’s Resolutions. I make mine at Midsummer.  Last year I resolved to commit completely to the path I started the previous autumn. I determined to make this writing gig a Real Thing. To embrace writer as my identity, make myself visible as one online and in the real world, and see how deep the rabbit hole went.

It goes to the center of the earth and beyond. The internet takes and gives and holds everything within its electronic embrace. I have discovered incredible people here (and far fewer jerks than I expected. So far…)  Still and all, everything online is amplified and aggravated, and a year has been enough. Too much, really. I have words to write that won’t get written if I continue to hope for support from the inhabitants of this smoke & mirrors world. I will starve on a diet of hypocritical hype and no-effort enthusiasm.

It’s too easy to get sucked into believing that people care when they don’t.  I’m not equipped for nuance. I can function in a world of graduated meanings, but translating from my native binary is exhausting and stressful. All in, or out of the game. That’s how my brain is wired, and it’s one reason I have so few friends. I wear them out.

Online the distancing process has been faster. Real-life friends take years give up. Online it’s only taken months.  I have (as usual) exhausted goodwill by not playing nice, by not putting others before myself, by craving attention at inconvenient times and demanding unreasonable efforts, and overall for “not understanding that people have lives.” (Odd, how my life is never discussed
when others need me…)

I am labeled an asshole because I don’t accept what I don’t want “with good grace.” I am stamped with the Scarlet N because I don’t have the energy to put on a happy shell. I am never sufficiently grateful for crumbs of attention tossed to me without sincere interest. My courtesies are lacking.

And of course it won’t hurt me to call me asshole, shun me, or take me to task because I must be strong or I wouldn’t act that way. (That’s a comforting myth for the self-righteous, but it’s a lie.)

I had a brilliant birthday. The day also sucked in so many ways I refuse to  count them all. Suffice to say that I feel let down hard by many who profess to support me–people who have been encouraging, people who make noises but don’t put words into action. I’m bleeding frustration from every pore.

It’s my own fault for interacting with shadows and mistaking reflections for reality. My unhappiness also in no way diminishes my deep gratitude to the people who are supportive. The ones who save their coffee cash, and write reviews and push my books on friends because that’s what real friends of authors do? All fifteen or so of you? You are my pillars of happy in a sea of grump.

I will avoid ultimatums because I know my bitterness always washes away at every tiny hint of outreach or concern. I am grateful for crumbs. It’s how I’m built, how my scars have shaped me.  It’s also why I need to push away more, this coming year. If you can’t handle being nipped, steer clear. I have teeth, and I will be using them more often, with less guilt.

Gonna be interesting, yeah.


Guest post! Jophiel: Path of Angels

Give a warm welcome to Patricia Lynne, celebrating the release of the latest book in her Path of Angels series!
Rest your eyes on the gorgeous cover for a moment (no, not literally, ewwww) Now, read the blurb and the other tantalizing, enticing and intriguing info you’ll want to know. Keep scrolling for the author bio and links for contacting, following and all the good stuff.

They must fight to stay on the path.
Joe embraces his duty without fear or hesitation, always ready for the next battle. But the path has never been easy. With Michael’s return, they uncover a truth more dangerous than they ever imagined. Their enemy plans to unleash the devil himself, Lucifer. Help comes in the form of an unlikely alley: a member of the fallen.
Mariangela is trying to make amends by protecting the child she is carrying. After blindly following Lucifer in the rebellion, her misguided allegiance came with a price: banishment from heaven. Now, as she strives for forgiveness in the human world, she must fight to prevent Uriel, a fallen archangel, from using her child to free evil from Hell.
The path becomes a battleground, one which may already be lost.

And because reasons-not-to has been a theme in my life recently, here are 5 reasons not to read Jophiel presented by the character himself, plus a short interview.

Hello, Jophiel here. Reading is such a pain, isn’t it? You have to sit for hours on end, your butt goes numb, and you’re forced to use your brain. Ain’t no one got time for that. Fear not, I’m here to help. These excuses are fool proof! You’re welcome.
#5: You’ve been working hard all day and your brain needs a break. Reading won’t do that, but a mindless game like Tetris will.
#4: It’s late at night, so you can’t read then. Reading in the dark is bad for your eyes. Better to put it off until tomorrow. Or next week.
#3: My book is the third in the series. Naturally, if you haven’t read Michael and Zadekiel, you can’t read this one. You will have zero idea what’s going on.
#2: There’s a door in your house that won’t stay open. Or you need to weigh something down. The only thing you have is this book. You have no choice but to not read.
And the #1 reason for not reading this book: The series will become a blockbuster movie. So there’s really no point when one blessed day you’ll be graced with my handsome face on the silver screen.
That’s all fascinating, but let’s get to the real goodness. Tell us a bit about yourself and what makes you tick.
Joe: Hi, my name is Joe and I’m an alcoholic. KIDDING! I shouldn’t joke about that. Especially for Zade’s sake. *Joe flops down on a couch, kicking his leg up on the coffee table* I’m the oldest of us four. The comedian. Don’t listen to Gabe. Nothing diffuses tension better than a joke. I do have a serious side to me. What we do is dangerous and one misstep could get us killed. I won’t risk my brothers.
Do you have any hobbies, favorite TV shows, books? Anything you fangirl/boy over?
Joe: Call of Duty, but I don’t get to play it much. I guess I’m living in a video game in a way now. Not sure that’s better. Video games aren’t as life threatening. Unless you count, spending way too much time sitting and playing instead of moving.
What is one thing from your past you’re most proud of?
Joe: Jumping off the church in my hometown and trying to fly. None of my brothers wanted to. They were content to stay on the ground. Come on, you have to be daring and willing to bust your leg.
And to wrap up, let’s play favorites:
Pepsi or Coke?
Joe: Whatever one wants to sponsor me. *grins*
Pie or Cake?
Joe: What about Pie with cake filling? You feeling me?
White or dark chocolate?
Joe: I’ll take both. Why discriminate? *winks*
Playstation 4 or Xbox 1or WiiU?
Joe: Xbox 1 baby!
Paperback book or ebook?
Joe: Reading? Ugh.
Summer or winter?
Joe: Actually, I prefer fall. Not too hot, not too cold. Plus, there’s Halloween and I firmly believe you are never to big to play dress up. Especially when free candy is involved.
Puppies or kittens?
Joe: Kittens all the way.
Vampires or werewolves?

Joe: Witches. They are much hotter than a corpse or fur ball.

About the Author:
Patricia Josephine never set out to become a writer. In fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was all about art. On a whim, she wrote down a story bouncing in her head. That was the start of it and she hasn’t regretted a moment. She writes young adult under the name Patricia Lynne.
Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow, and an obsession with Doctor Who.

Ripostes: My latest rant about aphorisms

The less SEO-acceptable title for this post would be Shit I Hate Hearing, or Advice That Can Go Piss Up A Rope. Sometimes I need to grump about things in life that get my goat. This is my space for doing that (See the goats? See them?) and I despise these tidbits of wisdom with a deep and fiery passion. Before continuing, consider yourself warned. These may be your favorite sayings. You may find them to be positive and helpful and uplifting. Lots of people do. That’s why I hear them so often, I’m sure. Keep saying them. Keep believing them. It’s all good. You do you, I’ll do me, and we’ll get along great.

Just don’t expect me to agree with you. Now, without further ado, here are three hoary, horrible bits of advice getting on my nerves lately.

Just be yourself.
I have griped more than once about how much I despise this bit of dreck. No time like the present to do it again! The arrogance of this statement is surpassed only by its outstanding ignorance. It assumes entirely too much. Perhaps the recipient of this turd of a suggestion is being herself already. Maybe she doesn’t knows who she is with enough clarity to act on the knowledge. It’s even possible she is a person who should grow or change in some way.
     If ever I was tempted to tell someone, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Just be yourself,” I would immediately stop and consider the possibility that I’m encouraging a child molester, a serial killer or a rapist to act as they see fit. Yes, that’s how my brain works. People who tell me to be myself have no clue what kind of person I am.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.
There’s another one that rubs my fur backwards. Start with the inherent contradiction to Annoying Statement #1. What if the object of this instruction is a person who enjoys being hard on herself? Which directive takes precedence? That’s just the beginning of the wrongness of it. The arrogant assumption principle comes into play here too. How does the advisor here know if the subject of their advice is being hard on herself at all? What if her self-criticism is mild, in comparison with past efforts? It’s a patronizing pat on the head, as belittling as it is useless.

Don’t take it personally.
This one gets under my skin like a splinter and festers. It’s another dismissive erasure. If a criticism is directed at me, a person, then it’s personal. Period. If my feelings are injured by someone’s words, then the wounds are real. Full stop.  Maybe I should learn to let certain criticisms slide off  my ego. Perhaps the words are “meant kindly” or are “just an opinion.” Maybe not.  Those points are irrelevant. I have as much right to react to a slight as I see fit as the person who initiated the interaction had to deliver it. This is not a dismissal of criticism as a concept. Correction is a vital part of personal and professional growth. It’s also often a painful one, and that pain is personal.  This is a condemnation of people who diminish the importance of that pain with a blanket sneer. That is a nasty passive-aggressive power game, and it’s one I refuse to play.

There. Those are my current gripes.

Now, warm fuzzies for everyone.