Surprise of surprises, there was some commotion on the internets (or at least in my part of it) about an author getting into a bit of a tiff with a reader over an unkind review. There’s plenty to be and has been said on this issue. It seems to crop up every couple of months or so, and I expect it will continue to do so until the day I die. With the growth in the number of writers putting their work out there, I imagine it will become a far more regular occurrence. Some folk just have a hard time handling criticism.
I use the term in a very broad sense here, from the simple, “meh,” to the point where it seems clearly like a personal attack. The flame wars tend to crop up when it seems personal and everyone has their own tipping point regarding what the deem personal. It’s my belief that as a writer, you have to make a concerted effort to push your tipping point to a very high level. And I’ll say it again, you have to have patience. I’ve said this before in regard to the writing process itself, but you have to have it with other people as well. Writing is personal. You are putting yourself down on the page, your thoughts, hopes, dreams, experiences, and so on. There’s a lot of “you” in your book. It’s the nature of the beast and a good part of what makes storytelling so great.
However, for readers, not so much. Readers have a simple expectation. Tell me a great story. It’s pretty simple. If you don’t meet that expectation for them for whatever reason, they aren’t going to like your book. It’s hard sometimes to seperate the “I don’t like your book” from the “I don’t like you” aspect. As a writer you have to be able to do this. Have too. No choice, if you value your sanity and keeping your stomach free of ulcers. As a writer published through the conventional channels, I have the benefit of knowing other people in the business of publishing think I know what I’m doing and do it somewhat well. There’s a certain comfort in this, a validation of my worth as a writer. This is far more difficult in the realm of self-publishing where one may be going into the whole business with no real idea what others are going to think. I can sympathize with this. It’s hard. Regardless, writers want everyone to love their work, knowing full well that some people just won’t.
This is an important fact. Some people just flat out won’t like your writing, and there is NOTHING you can do about this. Accept it. Be one with it. There are a million reasons why this can happen, which you basically have no control over. You also have no control over how others will express their opinion. Some people just like to trash others. For whatever reason they get some kind of satisfaction in putting others down. You hope the readers who don’t like your work will say so in constructive terms, but odds are pretty good this won’t always be the case. One of the biggest worries is that negative comments made about your work will be accepted by others as true, even though they may not have read your book. This can happen and probably will. No matter how good you may think your work is, someone is bound to tell you it’s not even worth feeding through a paper shredder. And worst of all, people trashing your book can instill doubt. Oh, my god, what if they’re right? Writers can be insecure about their work. We want to be validated for our efforts and skill. This is true of any work one does, but personal work is the toughest of all to manage.
So, writers, if you really want to do this, get involved in this crazy business for the long haul, then you need to be willing to roll with the blows. If you can accept the fact from the get go that some people just won’t like your writing, no matter what you do, you’ll be ahead of the game. You always have to work on your writing skills, but it’s important to work on the personal ones too. Learn to let the negative roll off of you. Get out your “Don’t Piss On The Author” umbrella and carry it around with you at all times. Because, trust me, people will try to piss on you. It’s the nature of the game, but if you can find that place where you’re comfortable with what you’re doing regardless of what people say, you’ll do much better. Find that quiet place inside, where even those shouting out their hateful diatribes against your abysmal writing, cannot be heard. Then, and only then, should you open up those reviews. Happy writing, folks!
Tip of the day:
You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you’re on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine. –Margaret Atwood