I've always toyed with the idea of writing something like this. Writing I can do but trying to get a point down in discussion? I'm terrible at it. I decided to give it a shot anyway given the pretty severe decline in reviews I've noticed lately and I'm not just speaking in regards to my own.
Personally, I've been blessed in that department even with my crappy updating habits but I know a lot of writers who have stopped doing what they love in just the past year or so because feedback has declined so much. I know life is busy. I have a full time job and a twelve year old kid to raise on my own who has the same smart mouth as me. I know a lot of you might have similar situations; college, uni, or just school in general for you youngsters out there. Maybe you start reading a fic and your phone goes off and it's more family drama or boyfriend/girlfriend distractions or a pesky telemarketer (do those exist anymore?). Maybe the dreaded bill collector of doom. Life is more complicated than it used to be and Tumblr is just so friggin addictive. Then there's Facebook, the soul sucking website in not so very good disguise.
So, I get it. You're reading that fic and you like that fic, maybe even love it to bits and tiny pieces, but you get distracted or you've suddenly got something else to do so you exit the tab or you move on to another.
And at the bottom of that page the review button is softly crying in the dark void. Alone. Neglected.
You should feel bad.
You're a terrible person.
I'm just joking. Well...mostly. Do me a favor, okay? Pretty please? Ignore your phone, yelling parents, whiny siblings, the glare of homework and the relationship partner that can't seem to live without you for five seconds when you go to the bathroom.
I want you to imagine yourself sitting at a table. Any size, any color, any height 'cuz hey, it's your imagination. Knock yourself out. Same goes for the chair. Maybe it's super comfy or maybe you're hardcore and that bitch is made of nails. Fuck yeah. Rock on!
(If you picked the comfy one I won't think less of you. Wuss.)
You're sitting at this table, in a room all alone, because right now nothing else in the world matters except for what's sitting on that table. What is it? I have no idea. Only you can know that. Why? Because it's something very important to you. It's something you worked very hard on. Years? Months? Weeks? Maybe just a day or two. It's something you had a passion for that you poured every last ounce of your soul into. Maybe it's a cosplay outfit, a sculpture, a drawing, or a project for school.
I want you to remember whatever it is, and how it felt to make it. The possible blood, sweat and tears. I want you to remember what it felt like to finish it. Even if you still weren't completely happy with it there was still a sense of pride, right? Because it started out as nothing and even though you probably doubted yourself by God you persevered! Let the Earth tremble before your greatness!
What's the first thing you did when you finished the amazing thing? Did you snap a selfie with it and post it on Tumblr? Soul suc-Facebook? Did you finally let the world in and showed your parents or your friends?
I'm sure you got some compliments for it, maybe even some pointers and critiques on how to make it even more awesome. Maybe your teacher/professor nodded sagely and you skipped from the room and ran to tell everyone that you made a better grade than you hoped. It felt good, right? Like you could suddenly do anything. Maybe a butterfly landed on your nose as you gazed up at a smiling sun. If it didn't...to hell with that butterfly. You'll crush it with your fist of greatness!
I'm sure you know where I'm going with this by now. For those who don't write, this is pretty much how most writers feel with every single chapter.
That thing, maybe several things, you worked so hard on? What if you let the world in to see it...and no one said a word? What if you stood there with it clutched in your hands and your heart pounding and they took one look...
...and walked away.
Did you log into Tumblr or Soul suc-Facebook and hope to find hundreds of likes or reblogs and found five instead?
If you're lucky enough to have never experienced that then just try to imagine it. The crush, disappointment, and complete letdown. Did you/would you want to go through that again just to have the same result?
On some level you felt like you failed.
I'm not trying to be dramatic. For the lovely ones who come to sites like this just to read, you might not think about it like that. I mean, we writers do this for fun, right? Practice for our best selling novels? Personally speaking, I write because I have to most times. My muse refuses to accept less. The thoughts and ideas build until you can't sit still, can't focus on work or even life in general. It literally starts to ruin real life because it consumes everything. Thing is we writers don't have to share them. We could save them to our computers or keep them stored away in a mountain of notebooks.
But for a lot of us they're our special things. We don't get paid, we take time away from school and work and family and choose to share them with the world.
Because we're proud of it, we enjoyed doing it, and we want you to feel those same emotions, too. Just like you did with your special project that you were proud to show the world.
One last exercise and I'll wrap this up. I've been told, and have felt this way myself at times, that fanfiction is an escape for a lot of you. Life can be crappy. It's stupid stressful. Now more than ever. I'm gonna be super dramatic for a second so bear with me: what if you woke up and all that fanfiction was gone? What if you found a new book/anime/movie/game and that one character tears at your heart and they're so damn fine and you have to find a story with them right this damn second or you're gonna punch a two legged kitten in the face!
(Disclaimer: violence against kittens, crippled or otherwise, or any living creature or person is not condoned by the author and is punishable by you knowing you're a crappy person if you do it. Also fines and/or jail time or whatever.)
Imagine, years from now, your kids going through the same tough life that you're having now but they don't have the same escape and memories of reading a fanfic until the wee morning hours. (Just don't think of them reading smut or finding smut written by you.)
I'm sure some of you have noticed the decline in updates as well. Some writers grow out of writing fanfic, for some life just gets too hectic, and for some they just stopped feeling appreciated. As a reviewer, you can't help with the first two but you hold a great deal of power in your typing fingers for that last one.
I'm not asking you to leave a six page essay every time something you like is updated. Less can be more. So long as it's something. If it comes down to not knowing what to say, that's perfectly okay. Say that instead. We don't expect a New York Times article analysis, we honestly just want to know that you cared enough to say something. Oh, the more detailed the better. Not gonna lie but not to stroke our egos, but because we get these evil little laughs in our heads when we pick apart what you say and can use it in the story to twist your feels even more. You hold so much more power than you realize.
Every "Great job!" is a stick added to the fire of our imagination. Every "OMG he did __! I can't believe she ___! I hope they don't ____! What if ____?!" is a log tossed into the growing bonfire.
Okay, I lied. One final mental exercise. I swear.
You're standing in front of your imaginary table, your proud piece of work on display in a room full of one hundred people. You're nervous, shifting your feet, and picking invisible lint from your clothes because you don't want to look all of these people in the eye. What if they came all this way and don't even like it? What if you disappoint them? Even though you should be proud just for trying, for finishing it... People start wandering by. They look at the thing but no one says a word. No one is shaking your hand. You can't even see a smile. Oh god, there's one. They lean over your table for a closer look. Tilt their head this way and that and comment on the detail. How hard it must have been. They like your style, the flow of it, the color. They'd like to favorite it. And you're happy because they understand what you were trying to convey. They smile and promise to come back next time and there's butterflies in your stomach and your heart's doing something weird. They walk away, lost amid the others milling from the room. The rest are just glances. No one else stops to even say hello. And the butterflies start to disappear.
One review out of one hundred views.
It's not about greed or thinking we deserve it. It's not about being popular, and if it is then sorry Mr./Miss Writer but you're doing this for the wrong reasons and this is my judgmental glare.
*insert intimidation tactic*
We write for ourselves and we write for you. No one can force you to say anything. If you don't have enough time, that's perfectly okay! Life can be hectic, we writers know that well enough when we try to type a chapter but the world keeps getting in the way. All we ask is that you find a little time when it's quiet to let us know you're there. I know I've met some of my most precious friends through reviews and I hope all of you have as well. Years of amazing friendship that would never have existed if we hadn't spoken up over a mutual love. It might not always end up that way but it's awesome to see a returning name in a review and just "Bless her perfect face! I could squeeze it to smithereens!" If only you guys could hear the garbled, embarrassing, happy noises we make to our screens. Heck, maybe you've made them at a chapter that really got you worked up.
We have to support each other. We have to keep the exchange going. That goes for all forms of art on all of the sites we lose ourselves in day after day. Don't do it out of guilt or feelings of obligation. Do it because you enjoyed something that might have brightened your day.
Do it because they might be having a bad day of their own.