The Lone Star State of Mind

The best thing about being an author is that other people will read your writing and some of those people will really like your work and give you a four or even five star review, which will make your heart do the Snoopy Dance of Much Happiness. You will think those people are wonderful and you will want to send them all Christmas Cards and text them that they are now your new BFF and hope they all win the lottery.

However, the worst thing about being an author is that other people will read your writing and some of those people will think you are rubbish or even absolute crap and give you a two or even the dreaded one star review, which will make your heart to do the Hysterical Meeping of Unreasonable Despair. You will think those people are cretins and hope they all step barefoot on a Lego brick in the dark on their way to the bathroom at 3:00 AM. You will also want to 1) contact them defend your precious book which they clearly could not have read correctly or they wouldn’t have loathed it and 2) contact them and tell them their father was a hamster and their mother smelt of elderberries. Neither of these things is either feasible or rational or even sane. Nonetheless, the impulse will be there.

I have several friends who are authors of fictional works. Since fiction is hella subjective, many of them have also suffered the agony of a Review of Doom. This is what writers look like after reading a bad review of their stuff:

frodosamwise

This is what an author looks like after he or she has thought about the comments in the review for a little while:

bilbo-wants-the-ring-crazy-face 

Then this is what the author looks like later, when enough time has passed to get some perspective again:

boromir

Yeah, still not very happy. Frankly, none of us are ever real thrilled with a bad review, no matter who does it, or how few bad reviews there are, or how much time has passed. The exception may be the extremely successful authors with a huge fan base and royalty checks with many, many numbers before the decimal point and a team of professionals to love them. When one of them gets a bad review they probably look like this:

Legolas-the-elves-of-middle-earth-7510895-535-406

One day, I want to be one of those authors. It is highly unlikely, but a girl middle aged woman can dream, can’t she?

The strangest thing about the Lone Star Review is that it sticks in one’s head a lot more tenaciously than an exponentially greater number of glowing reviews.  No matter how off-base the critique (such as when someone complains that a tragic book about a dystopian future wasn’t very funny or other strange criticisms that make you wonder what the reviewer was ingesting prior to typing) it can haunt you. Apparently this is a nearly universal and immutable human failing, since our brains are hardwired to remember negative events more strongly than positive ones. It’s woes before pros, apparently.

I was moping about the other day, when a friend of mine – a well-respected classical musician who has nevertheless dealt with negative feedback on more than one occasion – hit upon a good way to cheer me up. She took me on a tour of books we both loved, some of which that are canon and all of which are at minimum widely regarded as excellent examples of their genres written by people that can only be described as excellent prose-crafters and word-smiths, and we looked at the one star reviews some deranged people felt compelled to give them. If books of such stellar qualities can inspire vitriol from a few of the masses, it is delusional for me to even hope that my modest work would remain unscathed. This perked me right up.

I also went on a tour of the books I just happen to really, really enjoy written by some of my favorite authors … and lo, the occasional single star did shine there as well. Since I have the avid bookworm’s fanatical devotion to my favorite authors, I consider any one star reviews left on their doorsteps as the ravings of madmen that should only be sneered at. This also cheered me up, inasmuch as it was further proof you simply CANNOT please everyone. It is impossible to make everyone happy, and it is nonsensical to obsess about that which cannot be obtained.

I will, of course, continue to rely on the skills of editors and pay attention to any germane criticisms of my writings put forth by a reader, but I can’t spend all my time trying to create works that are immune to derision. It can’t be done. Time to move forward and not dwell on the fact that some people will consider my books as better for kindling than their Kindle.

But I still hope those people step on a Lego.

Gandalf

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