So, I’m just now reading that there have been some…eh hem…interesting public reactions from a few authors to negative reviews of their books. Is it pathetic that I didn’t realize this was happening until very recently?
Anyhoo, this makes me sad--to know that some authors seem to lose their sense of joy and satisfaction from focusing too hard and too personally on reviews. I think this is detrimental, because a level of detachment from opinion is needed in order to continue writing, in order to finish a project you've poured your sweat and blood into, and, honestly, in order to survive the writing business at all.
I definitely understand how challenging it is--the art of silence--and ideally, the ability to keep your peace when someone dislikes your work. But it’s kind of crucial. That cliché thick skin everyone is always talking about is a God-send. It’s not just a mechanism of durability in the business, it’s one of thriving and sanity, as well. Because there’s a definite risk, in our reading and writing haze, (and as with anything in life, I suppose), to get so absorbed, so tangled in the details and reactions that we absolutely lose all perspective. We can miss the forest for the trees and our own individuality, as well.
I consider, as an author, what made me write in the first place. What were my personal philosophies, hopes and dreams for people, love, life and creativity and how did I want them to apply to my writing career? We have a goal and vision for our books, right? That idealism automatically helps you to rise above what ails you, and in this day and age, authors could really stand to hold onto that feeling, simply because technology, while enhancing the intensity of the experience and adding to the fun of reader interaction, has also made it far too easy to access the opinions of others. And for the more reactionary among us, this is a recipe for diplomacy faux pas galore.
I knew, from square one, that I was absolutely, unequivocally going to get some bad reviews. I was going to have some folks who wanted to throw my book across the room and then dance upon it (the idea of which is making me giggle for some reason), and then I was going to have some readers who wanted to take my book to bed with them (no lying…this actually happened), so I set out to steel myself from day one. Of course, I was nuts to think I could be little-miss-iron-emotions straight away, because, in the beginning, negative reviews stung like hell. But I kept reminding myself why I’d written a book at all, and that some people prefer vanilla, while some like chocolate, so I had to keep my head clear. And after a time, surprisingly, negative reviews went from lacerations to mild abrasions to slight pinches, and it really does get better.
I’ll be honest, I used to feel kind of bad for not responding with a thank you to every review of my books, but something always gave me pause, and when I consider it, I believe said instinct suggested that I might be invading the reader’s privacy—their safe, anonymous feeling—along with puncturing the invisible author-reader bubble that I suspect helps people suspend their disbelief while reading fiction.
All of this hardly means that I don’t read reviews or appreciate their insights (in fact, I love them!), but the act of “staying out of it” has always felt right, for me. It’s fitting, I think, to let people take what they need and leave the rest, even if that means I have to plug my ears and sing a few verses of, “Clang, clang, clang, went the trolley!” to get through the hard bits.
Peace and love,
Credit for photography goes to: Castillo Dominici