I can’t believe my new Mark commentary has hit the bestseller Christian book list in HK this week. Works like that don’t usually sell that well. It’s been a little while this year since I made it on that list. I’m under no illusion that I’ve written anything profound to deserve that number one spot. I’m also under no illusion that I’ll top the chart with that one for long. After all, academic books are mostly written for those who REALLY care about what the biblical text says. Your average evangelical readers tend to exclaim, “Who cares?” Throughout my writing career, I’ve had a great run in the Chinese world. Every year, at least one or two of my books are in the top ten. I’m under no illusion though that it’s necessarily some sign of divine blessing (though I’d love to think so). It’s just the way the market falls. Throughout my writing career, I’ve also heard other writers complain about deadlines and criticism. Don’t we all hate deadlines? Sure, we do … except I really don’t. Let me explain.
You know what deadline is? A deadline is a way for someone to keep us accountable to the discipline of writing. Good writers need discipline. Good writers read, think and write every single day. A deadline is there to remind us that we aren’t here just to enjoy popularity and fame. We’re responsible to a reading public. Therein lies the problem. In this internet age, anyone can be a writer and almost anyone can become popular (e.g. look at Kim Kardashian). The problem is, writing with longevity isn’t something you can solve with popularity because in order to have longevity, you have to have substance first.
You know what a deadline is? A deadline is a blessing. It’s a reminder that people have chosen to read our articles, columns or books instead of playing the latest video game on their phone or merely google for information. If someone chooses to pay us for our columns or our books, we’re in no place to complain. A deadline isn’t a burden. It’s only a burden for the undisciplined.
Why do people complain about deadlines? It’s because they fail to have a clear vision and mission as to why they write. They don’t like to be criticized. They just want to be liked. Some have very fragile egos. They can’t take any criticism. They have to be right all the time in the same way the immature child stomps his feet. Others like to criticize others but don’t like criticism back.
Why else do people complain about criticism? It’s because they don’t like being misunderstood. Well, if you look at the criticism someone launched on Amazon about my book Right Texts, Wrong Meanings, you’ll see that he’s looking for apples while I was delivering oranges. The ironic thing is, my PhD is mostly in “apples”. I have published journal articles in “apples”, but of course, the keyboard warrior doesn’t know that or bother checking his facts (who checks facts anyway these days?) I’m thankful for this negative critique though because frankly, most people don’t even bother to put any negative criticism in writing. If someone feels passionate enough to engage your writing to write a critique, perhaps it means that someone is reading! We write to be read! As long as someone is reading and engaging my stuff, so what if he misunderstands? In some cases, I can do a better job communicating. In other cases, maybe the critic is just an uninformed idiot who himself isn’t published but loves to play keyboard author. So what? Grow thicker skin, smile a little and shake your head. That’s what you do with those people. If you don’t like to be misunderstood, stop writing.
Why do people complain about criticism? It’s because they fail to realize that writing is a responsibility. You’re responsible for what you write. You don’t have the right to sprint to the shelter that has “you misunderstood me” at its doorframe every time someone retorts against the writer’s literary battle. If you dish it out, be prepared to receive the same amount of backlash. Writers who play victim are most pitiful because they’ve misunderstood that their mission is to be popular and well liked. In this internet age of click baits, they’ve mistaken the cyberspace for reality. Don’t want criticism? Don’t criticize others, or just stop writing altogether.
Why do people complain about criticism? They complain because they see writing as the means to fame. Popularity isn’t the essence of writing. Integrity, truth and depth are. If you want popularity without responsibility, you can sell your integrity to appeal to the lowest spiritual taste of the simpleton. That’s how life goes. Just look at the Daniel Diet book where Rick Warren and co. hijacked a perfectly great biblical character by promoting a diet plan that’s about as far from the historical Daniel as could be. Now that appeals to the popular ignoramus. When the Bible clearly indicates that Daniel and his friends followed a vegan diet, the book has Teriyaki stir fried beef, or chicken noodle soup etc. That’s what selling your soul looks like. That latest Rick Warren’s bestseller, now translated into Chinese, is what I call a spiritual joke book, but you can get hugely popular with spiritual joke books. Want fame? Make a sex tape. It’ll get you more famous than writing. Stop writing!
Why do writers complain about deadlines and criticism? Let me summarize: they fail to see writing as a privilege. Writing is a privilege, and popularity demands responsibility. Writing isn’t something we’re entitled to because no one HAS TO read your stuff. If you fail to see writing as a privilege but see it as entitlement, then you clearly don’t belong to the guild of serious writers. Writing is merely a means for you to get famous, but that isn’t the essence of writing! IF you’re allowed to write, and people actually read your writings, you should thank the heavens above for your great privilege and never complain about the burden. It doesn’t have to be a burden unless you seek fame without responsibility. Thank God everyday for the deadlines and criticisms. That’s what we writers should be doing!