Bad Reviews

It arrived in your email box yesterday. You’ve read it 20 times since then, and still can’t believe someone would say such hurtful things about your story. Receiving a bad review is not lethal, but it sure can gut your confidence like a fisherman with a striped bass.

First, if bad reviews send you into the depths of the mullygrubs, your psyche sandwiched between thick slices of doubt and insecurity, don’t read them. Your novel, like your child, may have its flaws, but strengths as well. If you are working towards perfection, then read everything critics say and slash away.

Vulnerability occurs when you are passionate about your work. That renders you sensitive to harsh criticism. Not everyone loves your book like you do.  When someone trashes your baby, you’re going to bleed. A blood-letting could be cathartic though, and lead to fresh growth.

The 2009 forest fire that burned more than 1700 acres of wilderness in Yosemite National Park sounds like a tragedy at face value. Actually, the fire was started by park rangers and was part of the natural process of clearing off dead vegetation and litter to “clean” the land. New grass and young trees have replaced the dead, charred undergrowth. It’s the circle of life, Simba.

Now think about your work. If you remove some of the underbrush, would it look fresh, young and alive? Perhaps the accelerant of a bad review could catch the spark of your story and bring out a verdant meadow of prose.

Learn the differences between a hatchet job and a sincerely critical review.  Is it a personal attack? Full of generalities? That review is straight from Satan’s lair. Don’t let it quell your confidence.

Remember that all reviews are subjective. The author has their own experience to draw as reference. Don’t let one poison pen send you packing. Glean what you can from the criticism and walk away, holding your head high. You have survived to join an elite fraternity, the Gloria Gaynor Guild of Highly-Criticized Authors.

Pay no attention to what the critics say.  A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic.  ~Jean Sibelius

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3 Responses to Bad Reviews

  1. I love that you wrote this because a rejection letter always slows me down a little. I realize the ‘bigger picture,’ but in the moment, faced with the letter in hand, I usually contemplate quitting for a few minutes. Then another idea takes hold, new enthusiasm comes through, and I’m motivated to continue. The occasional acceptance letter helps too!

  2. Diane Wahto says:

    It takes a whole lot less than a bad review for me. I can get poems sent back filled with positive comments, but if I didn’t get published or win a prize, I’m in a funk for a month. I need to rise above that.

  3. Carol, your posts are always such a joy to read! I think this one comes in handy, especially with those of us who have experienced that ill fated “Dear John” letter. It is so hard to emotionally back away from those words enough to see the possibility in the work. One thing I have learned is, no matter how thick you grow your skin, you still fill the nicks of criticism. What is important is looking at them objectively and learning to see through the harshness to the productiveness. Does that make sense?

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