Updated: Jan 7, 2021
Bulletproof Heart––Keep going is the constant advice given to a writer when they’ve a rough day. It’s easier said than done and doesn’t help one lick when complex emotions might be clouding that otherwise sunny sky.
How much time have you spent writing that story? Days, years… an entire lifetime?
Let’s talk honestly about negative book reviews and the emotional cost of doing business as a creative in a society that’s rife with armchair critics.
One of my literary idols, Harper Lee said, “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” Apparently not a damn thing has changed in that regard.
A few months ago I took a chance and blew some of my own hard-earned writing money by putting a book title on Netgalley. Sure I knew that I might get no reviews at all, (I was also warned in advance about trolls) and was advised that I could simply get negative or positive reviews with no helpful feedback.
It’s the chance you have to take to see where your writing falls on the vector with other writers who have a legion of smart and talented people helping make their book successful, as in an agent, an editor, and a team of savvy college interns who give social media tips and advice on how to find your tribe.
As an Indie/Hybrid, I am the team. So, I was rather delighted with two positives and am even more thrilled with five mixed bag ones. Even if the two last reviews before it was archived are only two and three stars.
Why you ask?
It’s complicated, but I see it like this…I am a professional. Arguing, pleading or attacking someone else for their rightful opinion isn’t going to change a thing.
They also took the time to read my book and that really means a lot. Trading expectation for appreciation has a way of tipping the pendulum back to center. I am aware that my writing is unique, and as a person I am too. Not everyone will like or vibe to something new or different.
A famous writer I admire for her gothic horror books would most likely back me up on the notion that silence and observation has greater learning potential and less venom for everyone. She went another route a few years ago and it turned into a media nightmare. Did anyone change their minds or take anything down? Nope, I don’t think so…
It doesn’t feel good on a personal level to have people not admire or find enjoyment from what you’re delivering, but there is a broad stroke difference between someone criticizing a story and or taking pot shots directly at you the human behind the pen.
As writers, it’s important to realize that a negative review might sometimes actually be a boon. If the reader gives real feedback with a tangible reason or better yet, actual examples from the text as to why there was a disconnect, a writer can use that.
Perhaps as the artist, we won’t change a thing and carry on, but if we hear the same critiques over and over… might they have some merit?
Personally I trust book reviews more when all isn’t perfect and tidy. Not everyone will see the strength in the same book, genre or a writing style, just as not everyone likes pistachio ice cream or rye bread––versus sourdough.
I am not a glutton for punishment and truthfully I had a hard time for a few days after the last review. I had been querying and struggling with some tough edits in a novel that has a bit of personal history attached. I was exhausted and needed some positive energy to carry me over the hump.
It gets easier, it really does…but no one is bulletproof. Usually this external type of commentary happens when we are not at our best and this can filter through into our quiet moments and mess with The Muse. It can also make you sick, obsessive and question everything.
If you are struggling… my best advice is this: take what you can to learn from it, and let the rest go. Every writer you love has had to face this part of putting themselves out there. We must keep going, even when other people’s words hurt or we somehow missed the mark.
It’s healthy to have feelings and to connect with them, but it isn’t acceptable to get into arguments about it or quit just because you hit a speed bump. Pick yourself up, wipe off the dust, say “F” it, punch the wall and keep trying anyway.
At the very least, you will build upon the inner-strength that only comes from constant discipline and build a tough hide like Ms. Lee.
Good luck out there! Until next time find your Peace, Love, Hustle then Read or Write. Xox Bibiana
About the Author
Bibiana is a small-town girl from the Midwest who left home at an early age and traveled the world. Eventually settling in a historic village near Savannah, Georgia. She made a nest, created a family and built a dynamic career with a passion for culture, travel and private aviation. She recently shifted gears, and returned to higher education, earning an M.A. in Fiction Writing and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, both from Wilkes University CW. Walking a new, exciting path: Writing novels, short stories, podcasts and screenplay adaptations. She is a Deep Center writing fellow and a published poet.