Been away from the keys for a few days, not much time for blogging; also fighting off the last of a cold I picked up.
Not long ago, a friend of mine picked up Flight Of The Vajra, and I made the mistake of apologizing pre-emptively for the book. Not in the sense that I thought it was evil, but that it was flawed, and that the flaws in it had become all the more prominent to my own eyes since I'd finished it. But he loved the book anyway, and I realized once again I had made the mistake of trying to second-guess, and ameliorate, someone else's reactions to my own work.
There's really just no point at all in doing this. Not because other peoples' opinions are useless and should therefore be unilaterally ignored, but because they're other peoples' opinions — they have a life and death of their own, and they should be allowed to live and die on their own. You can learn something from what other people have to say about your work, but not because the ultimate goal of such refinement is to try and write something that will make everyone happy.
I think it says something that the folks who are most obsessed with the kinds of stories that will please everyone and offend no one are the ones who typically throw hundreds of millions of dollars at those stories, and want very urgently to make sure they get a return on their investment. But since you and I are not Hollywood producers — at least, I know I'm not — we don't have to be that craven.
My friend Patrick Farley once said that he would be happy if his work pleased him and at least one other fool. (He used the word in a self-deprecating way; as in, I'm an even bigger fool myself, for thinking anyone could care about this.) My own ambitions are about as modest, but I put it this way: Even if I'm only reaching myself and one other person, I should produce the work with the same level of professionalism I would put into something intended to reach millions. And not just this work but the next one, and the next, with the professionalism learned from each rolled into the next.
It sounds unromantic when rolled up in that word, professionalism. But maybe that really is what it's about, taking the process seriously and letting all that matters spring naturally from that. The audience will respond to the presence of professionalism in whatever form, and whatever venue, they encounter it.