Receiving Praise

It's a dangerous thing to read the comments on your writing. It's dangerous to your mental health. We often take comments that we receive online as if it were people talking to us. And, it's different. People are often willing to be insulting and threatening online when they wouldn't be in person. Even if that's not happening, it's difficult to communicate tone and such in writing, so things that would come across differently in person are lost when done in writing. But, sometimes it's great to read comments.

I've been debating things online for the last couple of decades. I've benefited from some of the discussions, but being able to ignore comments, or to read them and then not respond, is an even better skill.

Public comments are unique because there can be different intentions. Some people are honestly engaging with you and asking sincere questions or making sincere comments. In those cases I try to respond in kind.

Then there are all of the people that are not writing their comment to engage with the writer. Their comments are meant for the public. Which, is fair enough. I wrote about that in my article "Critics and Creators":

Confusing these two different types of comments can be a disaster.

But, sometimes, you receive praise. There are also different types of praise. Sometimes people compliment me on the content. Sometimes people compliment me on my writing style. Every now and then I get a combined compliment.

Here's a comment I received on my article, "Three Men Who Would Not be King":

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Them: This was well written, IMO. I don’t usually get drawn into history or politics but this pulled me in. And I agree that it’s strange that we don’t learn this about Washington, or the others. It seems like something worth celebrating, especially considering that the refusal of power is NOT something we every really see people do.
Thanks for sharing this.

Me: I really appreciate it. It's a subject that I've been thinking about for many years, and I've been working on my writing skills for the last few years. Still, this short article took from dawn until dusk to do right, especially finding the original sources so that my quotes were as accurate as possible.

Them: Yea, I loved it. It was engaging and kind of read like a novel in some ways. Well done.

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I have found that I read and write for almost the same reason. I seek to see new horizons. One of my favorite economists, Frederic Bastiat, said something similar in a letter on 3 July 1850, right at the end of his life.

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The economic horizons are unlimited: to see new ones makes me happy, whether it was I that discovered them or someone else that is showing them to me.

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The only thing that I would change is that I wouldn't limit it to economics.

The philosopher Roger Scruton also mentions this type of horizon in his great book "On Human Nature".

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To exist as a subject is to exist in another way than ordinary objects. It is to exist on the edge of the world, addressing reality from a point on the horizon, which no one else can occupy. We each address the world from a standpoint that accords a special and privileged place to our thoughts and feelings.

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And maybe that's why it's so powerful to receive praise when we create something. We make something that stands outside of ourselves. It has a life and existence of its own. Then we look upon it and judge it. Some of my writing is great, some of my writing not so much. When another person also looks upon my works they do the same judging process. And when we can both look upon it and appraise it as worthy of time, attention, acknowledgment, and thought, then there is a proper satisfaction in its having been created. A harmony of thoughts and feelings.


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