That goes for writers, too. If someone likes your book, that is great. If someone doesn’t like your book—well, not everyone is going to love it.
A writer friend once told me how she was so excited because her book was going to be reviewed on The New York Times Book Review. I was a wee bit envious at the time since that has never happened to me. But the book reviewer found her book superficial, shallow and unimportant. Ouch! My friend said it took her a while to start writing again, she was so pained by those stinging words. They slashed right through her.
So on Friday, I read a wonderful review of my book here. Just a few adjectives made my heart soar: fantastic. Poignant. Grace. Sensitivity. Really, it was a physical thing. I could feel myself floating. Then, of course, to remind myself that I am not so all-that, I read a review of my book with a completely different take. This second review found my book predictable, and said I used a lot of subject-predicate-adjective sentences. I had to look it up! I had no idea what she was talkin’ about. The review was lousy. The previous sentence is an example of what she meant. Ouch, ouch and ouch! Oy vey.
I was asked a while ago to write a blurb for a book that’s coming out next year. I didn’t love the book and at first I wasn’t even going to write something. But then I thought, why not be generous with praise? Someone out there is going to like this book. Someone will find it helpful and interesting. As I always told my kids, “It’s the same price to be nice.”
What people say about us is none of our business, whether we’re writing a book or simply being ourselves. As Rokelle Lerner wrote, (and I’m paraphrasing here), “We can’t use other people’s criticism as ammunition against ourselves.”
So, if you are writing, keep writing, no matter how many bad reviews you get. If you are in a writing group, however, or if you are in the process of writing and someone gives you helpful suggestions, that is different. If you need to work on changing something, change it. We cannot be defensive. We must be willing to change. Avoiding sentence similarity, that is me from now on. Working, writing, living. Yup! We gotta keep doing the best we can. And we have to fill our own well. Not with any outside thing. Not with any glittering sparkly praise but from the inside.
Here is a new take on the old Serenity Prayer: G-d, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.
Handling a bad review? Criticism? How have you dealt? My new policy. Do NOT read reviews about A Remarkable Kindness. Oh, I take that back. I have 25 5***** reviews on Amazon!