The Power of Subjectivity

posted in: Writing | 0

Whether you’re still seeking publication or already have work out there in some form or another, there’s a dirty word every writer must become acquainted with at some point.

That word is subjectivity.

By definition, it means “the quality of being based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.”

And like it or not, it’s an idea which rules the world–especially the world of writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a rejection which ends by saying something along these lines:

“Please know that this is an incredibly subjective industry, and another agent or editor may feel differently from me. Best of luck with your future endeavors.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Not for you. I get it.

I’ve been planning to write a post on this topic for a while now, but something happened recently which really drove home the power of subjectivity for me.

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of someone being interested in or liking what you write (as is often the case with querying a book), but at other times, people can have extremely strong feelings about a piece. For example, when this article was published a little over a week ago, I wasn’t expecting the backlash it would receive.

I’ve had hundreds of articles published, but this one riled some people up in a way I’ve never experienced. One woman even went so far as to rewrite the entire article in a mocking way (which she posted in the facebook comments). She was angry–that much was obvious. Others agreed with her and joined in the author-bashing, some even saying I should be ashamed of myself.

Honestly, I was at a loss. I couldn’t fathom why the article had rubbed so many the wrong way. I’d written it in my typical weird sense of humor style, but the message was one of support and understanding. It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t get that.

Honestly, there there were far more positive than negative comments, and there were numerous readers who thanked me for writing the article, some even stating that it brought them to tears. But of course those negative comments are the ones which stick with you. (funny how that works, huh?)

The one thing I’ve taken from this particular experience is a new appreciation for the power of subjectivity. I’ve realized that when you write something for publication, you’re essentially handing the power over to your readers. The story may change drastically depending on their individual experiences and opinions. Everyone will view your writing through their own personal lens.

It doesn’t matter if your J.K. Rowling, Lauren Oliver, or Ken Follett, there will simply be some people who won’t like what you write. We can only hope that our stories will resonate with more than not though.

And that in the end, the power of subjectivity will sway in our favor.