As someone who has been publishing her art in some form or other for years now, I'm used to a bit of feedback.
The feedback would usually be in the form of comments. Sometimes they were baseless flattery. Sometimes they were baseless criticism. Sometimes, like in the case of YouTube, they had nothing to do with what I was doing and went right into commentary about looks, religion, politics (honestly, someone should write a paper on how quickly YouTube comments descend into bickering about religion and politics, on even the most innocuous videos).
Thought Catalog has an option where you can contact the writer. The message is then sent via email to the writer. The writer can then opt to write back, which is sent to the commenter's own email. I've received a few of these emails -- usually from people with suspiciously bad grammar, a tendency to throw in random slashes and lines in their typing, and an uncanny ability to relate to every single one of the points I made in an essay ("I too am training/ for my first half marathon and I am - 27 years old also/!!") It doesn't take much to realize that these are messages sent out in hopes that I'll reply, giving them my email address, and opening the floodgates to have them spam the ever-living shit out of me. So, I ignore them.
Then, yesterday, I got a different time of email. Instead of it being from someone whose name I can't find on Facebook, this person had a real gmail account, linked to a semi-active Google+ account ("semi-active" being the important characteristic, as no real person has a proper, active Google+). No slashes or dashes or second-year-ESL English. Just a regular, heartfelt email.
In it, the lady talked about how she has been contemplated quitting teacher for a while, but felt like she was guilted into staying. She couldn't articulate to her friends and family exactly why she needed to quit, even though she loved her students and loved watching them learn. But reading my essay helped put her own thoughts and feelings into words. She told me that she felt like sending the essay to everyone she knew so they could finally understand why she wanted to quit such a "noble" pursuit.
Now, maybe I'm just delusional, and this is just a more clever version of these emails. But, if so, they deserve my email address. Small price to pay for being reminded as to why writers write (and put their stuff out there for others to read).
I'm going to be blunt: if you write -- and publish your writing -- for any other reason than to hopefully resonate with a reader, help put into words what other people have been feeling, inform or clarify an idea or an event or a portion of the human condition -- to explain or create or create a catharsis for an emotion -- than you are a selfish twat of a human being on level with Stephanie Meyer. I would love to get paid handsomely for my writing, but, more importantly, I want people to take what I have to say, to read what I have written down, and have it affect their lives in some way. I want people to read my novels and come away with a slightly altered understanding of something. I want people to read my essays and realize that, very much so, they are not alone in their experiences (or that everyone's varying experiences have the same common core).
After a few false starts, I have been using this post-full-time-job downtime to write, and write constantly. Sometimes I write a little more in my third manuscript. Sometimes I write yet another essay. Sometimes I work on a certain writing project that is far too much in its infancy for me to talk about publicly yet. And sometimes I just write about my day, on top of writing an entry in this blog.