Thank You for the Likes

August 21, 2019 § 49 Comments


sandra_millerBy 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

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§ 49 Responses to Thank You for the Likes

  • juliemcgue says:

    The sentiment you expressed is seconded by this blogger/memoirist/essayist.

  • Ditto. I’m really new to blogging so it’s helped to read this. Thank you.

  • Margaret says:

    Hi Sandra,
    Thanks for the reflective post.
    I am at the stage of decluttering (first time I have used this term in this instance) my social media platforms.
    I started my blog in November 2017 and it is gradually developing. I have just temporarily deactivated my Facebook account as I found the distractions were interfering with both my blogging and journalling practice.
    The two activities are helping me progress with my memoir (only just openly revealed that) in a way Facebook can never do.
    I do enjoy the social interaction on both media platforms but I felt I had to prioritise one of them really in order to keep sane and enjoy life.
    I will look out for your book & well done from one Catholic to another also.

    • Sandra Miller says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m so glad you are prioritizing your connection to the words and work. That’s so crucial. And I wish you the best with your memoir.

  • floatinggold says:

    First of all, please accept my CongratZ on your memoir being published.

    Secondly, I am glad this “Like” system works for you. That it fuels you and makes you feel less alone.

    However, I have mixed emotions regarding the “Likes”. Yes, it’s nice to know that someone enjoyed reading your stuff, but here’s the thing – some people hit the “Like” button without reading. Your “Like” is one they push among their sea of “Likes”. I apologize if this sounds blunt, but that is how I feel about it. “Likes” don’t always translate into sales.

    I do, however, SOOOO appreciate comments. You’re right – it’s hard to express the gratitude for engagement like that.

    • Sandra Miller says:

      I do agree with you. It’s easy to hit “like” and not mean it. And there’s still a way that it feels like a nice acknowledgment. (Hey, I’ll take what I can get in terms of acknowledgment and encouragement.). Thanks for reading and commenting, because, yes, the comments are the best.

  • dorothyrice says:

    Thanks! This struck a chord. I too feel awkward and guilty and needy at times, but the likes, hearts and especially comments really do give me a tiny boost.

  • ascreamin says:

    Ain’t nothing like that feeling when you get positive feedback. You nailed it.

  • Because I am also Catholic, I totally get it–and will be following news of your memoir.

  • Oh, thank you for putting into words what I feel every day. Carrying out marketing/publicity is so painful, yet we must do it if we believe our memoirs’ stories can benefit potential readers. Even a little thing, a “like,” can help us battle on. I look forward to learning more about you and your book when I click on your links.

  • Cathleen says:

    Sandra,
    So insightful to all of us in this digital world! This is a great read and I am so thrilled for your book launch and can’t wait to read it! All the best! ✍️🙏🏼

  • JeanMarie says:

    Excellent article. I too am hungry for the likes, and a little embarrassed by that. When I get a like on my blog from a blogger I don’t know, I check out some of their posts and like back when I can. If I don’t like their writing, I don’t click the like button just to do it, but I feel guilty about it. Oy! What a life!

    • Sandra says:

      Ha! Yes. Perhaps we all need to stop feeling bad about our social media habits and just know we’re doing our best. Thanks for reading and liking.

  • Betsy says:

    Beautifully expressed!

  • heartwrittenwords says:

    I can 100% relate to this post! There are most certainly days when I feel like even my own mother doesn’t read my blog.

    • Sandra says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. And I’ll bet your mother DOES read your blog.

      • Margaret says:

        This comment made me feel a bit sad because my mother was probably my biggest fan but she’s no longer with us. She always read my posts but would always respond privately in an email. I miss that.
        On the other hand my husband no longer reads my posts, so there you go!

      • Sandra says:

        Margaret–I know my mom–who passed away in 2013–still knows what I’m up to. And maybe yours is still reading your posts. :-). Just a thought…

  • Excellent piece Sandra! I have preordered your memoir from Amazon and am looking forward to the read! Thank you for sharing! Sincerely Carolyn

  • bethfinke says:

    I am not Catholic, but in my college days I came to realize I am drawn to people who are. I confess to generalizing here, but the Catholics I met in college were so much fun, liked to laugh, always willing to help, and so easy to please. Would say more here but need to go, I don’t want to forget to hit the button to “like” this guest post of yours. Brava!

  • Beth Peyton says:

    This is just wonderful. Captures the awkwardness of self-promotion when you hate it! And the gratitude. Thanks for sticking with it and congratulations on the new boos. Great job!

  • marianbeaman says:

    I can relate COMPLETELY to this, Sandra. It appears we are running parallel lives this year. Like you, I am publishing my memoir (my first book) also releasing in September. Like you I’m in the awkward marketing/publicity stage too. Oh, God!

    Unlike you, writing is my “third act,” after a career in academia. If I had known writing was so much fun, I may have retired from teaching sooner. I want to pre-order your book – love the cover!

    You can find mine, Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl with reviews on Goodreads now, but not available until after September 14 online.

    Much success – BRAVA!

  • Sofía Vélez Calderón (sofiavelezcalderon.com) says:

    Thank you for writing this. I just started my blog and if I get one like, I feel like crying. So far, I’ve only garnered 5 likes, and that feels very lonely. Reading your essay has given me strength. Thank you.

  • Margaret says:

    Just wanted to chime in and say that I really love the way you’ve responded to all the comments. I’ve been trying to comment more on other people’s posts but I find it really impacts on my confidence when they don’t reply.
    Recently I saw a post from someone who announced that they were in the process of refreshing their blog and I thought that it would be nice to respond to say that I was looking forward to seeing the new version. That was about a week ago and so far I haven’t received a response so I feel kind of embarrassed as though I’ve been snubbed. I appreciate that they might be busy with other things, but it always feels a bit weird when you respond and nothing happens, so thanks for making the effort to respond to each and every comment.

    • Sandra says:

      I know exactly what you mean! I’ve been there, too when I try to appreciate or connect and…nothing. As you know (ha) I’m quite grateful for these comments but I’ll still miss responding occasionally. Sometimes I”ll see a piece a year or so later and realize that I missed some comments and then feel weird about writing a very delayed response back. But maybe I should.

  • So insightful, so true!! I love this: “we typically aren’t narcissists. We all just play one on social media.” As a highly sensitive introvert, this pretending to be a social butterfly for the sake of “marketing” is so exhausting and so not me. Sigh. Most in my writing community understand that, but I still often feel like an imposter because I am 😉

    • Sandra says:

      Well, you can rest assured that you aren’t alone in this feeling. But I try to remember all the posting has been at the foundation of my career. And so it is and so it shall be. I wish you the best.

  • Margaret says:

    I suppose you could explain that you missed their comment but I also understand that people are busy with their lives and can’t necessarily respond to everyone. I try not to take it too personally, but it is lovely when people do take the time to respond.
    My biggest problem is finding something meaningful to say rather than just “I like your writing” but perhaps that’s enough. Personally I’m thrilled if even one person likes my post.

  • neemaslm says:

    I can totally relate to this. I feel I have an anxiety disorder as I wait for the comments to appear after I post some of my thoughts. But I thank social media for the stage it sets for every writer, for every photographer and for every artist who would have otherwise remained in shadows.

    • Sandra says:

      I agree. Social media has leveled the playing field quite a bit for those of us who are with small presses. We can be seen and build a platform, too.

  • flamingo1007 says:

    I really love this. I could post a picture of my dog on FB and get 30 likes and 10 comments. Today, I posted a link to an essay that was far less interesting than my dog.

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