Thank You for the Likes
August 21, 2019 § 49 Comments
By Sandra A. Miller
I wait for the “likes” on Facebook. Hopefully some shares, too. Then there are the comments: “loved this” or “shed a few tears” or “can’t wait to read your memoir.”
My response—typically a return “like” and a heartfelt “Thank you!”—almost always feels inadequate.
When friends on social media respond to my essays with a click of appreciation or a few words of praise, I doubt they know the depths of my gratitude. As a freelance writer sitting alone in my home office without a regular paycheck or any “good job” pats on the back, those blue Facebook thumbs-up and red Twitter hearts are often my only validation in the course of a workday. They are the virtual back pats that power me through long, lonely stretches of writing.
When I first started submitting work in 1989, I was living in a tiny apartment in Tokyo and teaching at a Japanese university. My laptop keys were crowded with both English letters and cryptic Japanese characters that were as hard to navigate as the teeming streets of that conundrum of a capital city. With money from an extra job, I bought a printer that took up half of my kitchen table. I was 7000 miles from home and determined to become a writer.
After typing out my stories on that funky Japanese laptop, I’d sail them across the Atlantic in crisp vellum envelopes, hoping an editor would fall in like with my words. On the rare occasion when one did, I might receive a letter back, maybe a contract. Often it took months, if anyone responded at all. One time there was no other correspondence between my submission and publication. I just received two copies of a bridal magazine with my article in it and a check for 50 bucks.
When my stories appeared in those random publications that I discovered in the go-to reference book–A Writer’s Market–I’d make photo copies at the 7-Eleven and mail them off to my mother and a few friends in the States. Eventually I’d get an aerogram back saying they “loved it” or “really liked it.” And that was all I ever knew of anyone’s reaction. For decades I wrote in a vacuum. Back then most of us did, and the work, not the network, was our sole focus.
I’m not saying that those were the good old days of being a writer because I still felt lonely much of the time. But it was different.
It’s a changed world now, and while social media can be an enemy to the solitary writer who is both in need of focus and desperate for distractions, I am still grateful for every single “like” on my essays. Those “likes” tell me to keep at it; they tell me someone heard me, or cares about what I said, or supports my writing, or me.
Because here’s the truth for many of us who write and share personal work: We may look brave, but we actually feel awkward asking for your approval—over and over—on intimate stories that emerge from our lives. We memoir writers may be a little self-obsessed—or at least hyper-curious about ourselves because that’s what it takes to write like this—but we typically aren’t narcissists. We all just play one on social media.
Such is the nature of today’s publishing game in which followers can equal book deals and editors want to see the size of our online networks before accepting a piece. For this mid-aged woman who still struggles with posting an Instagram story, your likes are my salvation, a sign that I’m doing okay in this digital world.
So this is really an overdue thank you note to my readers who got me to this place and—because I’m Catholic and feel bad about bothering you—an apology for all the posting I’ll be doing when my memoir comes out in September. You can’t possibly know how your responses to my essays buoy my spirits, or how prayer-hand emojis can never convey my true appreciation.
Sandra A. Miller‘s memoir Trove: A Woman’s Search for Truth and Buried Treasure is available for preorder from Brown Paper Press and Amazon. You can find out more or follow Sandra’s online treasure hunt at SandraAMiller.com.
Author Photo by Holloway McCandless
Tagged: funky Japanese laptop