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Surviving Accolades

18 Jan, 2023


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For reasons that are sufficient, tor dot com sometimes passes on my essays. Here is one such rejected work.

Award season is on us once more, and with it a looming need to manage one’s susceptibility to praise. Praise can be intoxicating (and lead to hubris); it can be overwhelming (and lead to anxiety and imposter syndrome). Creatives who find themselves faced with praise may have little preparation for this intoxicating draught. How are you to deal with the possibly horrific consequences of egoboo?

Here are … can you guess the number… five effective methods creatives can use to manage praise.


Consider seriously that you may have been confused with someone else, or that your accolades may have been delivered for reasons other than the actual quality of the work in question. Perhaps voters or jurors have confused you with a 19th century painter, observed you whimpering over being snubbed by the Nebulas again, or are simply astonished that you are still alive despite your advanced age and wish to reward this stalwart (if temporary) rejection of human mortality1. There are many reasons a person might utter compliments of which only some are sincere.


It’s an interesting fact that no matter whatever your achievements might be, someone else has exceeded them in one way or another. Perhaps they’ve won more awards or won them when very young or very old. Perhaps they are consistent award winners, not flashes in the pan like you. Perhaps they have been invited as guest of honor more often than you have, have won awards of which you can only dream, or are just plain better looking and better dressed. Perhaps their cat does not hate them. The one thing of which you can be certain is that you are at best second place in some category.


An astonishing aspect of winning an award is that being a winner is a passing phenomenon. In less time than you might expect, you become a past winner. The spotlight will move on to someone else and you will be forgotten (if you are that lucky). Banish any present tingle of pleasure with the knowledge that soon this too will vanish forever. Carpe diem.

Dread the future

Each award, laudatory review, and kindly word raises the bar. Even if your past work did not utterly suck, there is no assurance you will be able to maintain that level of achievement. What happens when your gifts and techniques fail you? Will your fans forgive you for letting them down or will they turn on you?

Success is only the opportunity to fail on a more epic level.


It could be a plot. Misplaced praise is bad enough. Being granted recognition in order to set one up for a more painful fall is worse. Do your fans and colleagues genuinely wish to recognize the value of your efforts? Or are they all secretly scheming against you, bidding their time until they can dump a bucket of pig blood on your head at the school prom? Aren’t protestations of sincerity and admiration exactly what your enemies would use to get you off-guard? How can you know what depths of loathing could be concealed behind supposedly friendly faces?


These five easy methods will insulate you effectively against the trauma of adulation, allowing you to focus on your work. Trust me, I am on your side. Of course, there may be other methods that would be even more effective, methods that I overlooked or for which I had no space. Feel free to mention them in comments, which are, as ever, below.

1: I suspect five Hugo awards granted because the voters were gobsmacked that the authors were not dead yet” would not go over well.