Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Writing

As with most endeavors, writing has its ups and downs. We authors are told we must have a thick skin and must be able to let the harsh criticisms of our work roll off our backs. That can be easier said than done. But it doesn't mean we don't have to find a way to put the possibly harsh critiques and reviews of our work into perspective.

Every author wants a sterling five-star review of his or her book. Naturally. I've yet to meet an author who would say, "If I get three stars on this one, I'll be happy." And we revel in the four- and five-star reviews, the ones that tout our book as brilliant or a must-read.

But how do we handle the other reviews--the ones from readers/reviewers who find our book to be less than entertaining or engaging, possibly even poorly written? Our human tendency is to react out of hurt and shame and with anger and indignation. "How dare that reviewer say such a thing about my book!" It's as if the reviewer said, "Hey, lady, you sure have an ugly baby there."

Developing that thick skin can be a challenge, and often the thick skin is nothing more than an outer cover, a mask to hide the hurt we feel. As professionals, we have to find a way to maintain a balance and to keep things in perspective. I give serious consideration to every critique, every reader feedback, and every review, whether it's a standing ovation for my work or a less than enthusiastic one-handed clap. As a writer, I'm always learning--at least I hope I am. I can learn from the negative feedback as well as from the positive. It's just not as much fun. Are reviewers always right? No, it's a very subjective business. But if they're right just once and, by taking that negativity, I can strengthen my future writing, I win in the end.

Admittedly, there is a difference between a 'bad' or 'negative' review and a slice'n'dice job that's close to being a personal attack on the author. Reviewers have to keep perspective and balance, as well. But I believe that any of us who put our work out there for public consumption and then don't consider the good AND the bad of public feedback does ourself and our future work a disservice.

We can smile at the great reviews and frown over the less enchanting feedback, but it's all a part of this profession we call writing.


Infogypsy said...

Good subject, Linda. We are all reaction machines - it's the nature of being human. Learning how to handle criticism is hard but a great step in being adult. Mostly we try hard to be adult, but I find myself still pouting when I get a bad review or an editor does not like something. Your advise is great--to take each one and consider it. Hard to do. I notice on my various lists mostly we defend each other when perhaps better would be for each of us to support each other in absorbing the blow and keep on treking...

Herman and Dori said...

I was happy with all of my reviews, however a side comment made by one reviewer got to me. In fact, its still sticking in my craw (whatever that is.) She said the reader had to suspend belief because in her world, the sheriff would never get away with what he did. Okay, true. But...Southern Exposure is a romantic comedy. And I instantly thought of fifty books where suspending belief was required to make the story work. I kinda wanted to send that list of books to that reviewer, but I didn't. I knew she was showing off her background in law enforcement. Instead I thanked her, and moved on. Developing a tough skin is part of the job. However, I am hoping that I won't have to develop elephant-thick skin in order to enjoy a successful publishing career.