First Wednesday in April, and that means another installment of Insecure Writers’ Support Group.
Criticism, whether good or bad, is something that takes place in our personal and professional lives. But let’s face it, we can’t please everyone. Whether you perform music or write novels or paints murals or make films, an artist/musician/writer/director knows not everyone will appreciate your work. When you put your work out there, for public consumption, it’s inevitable that an artist’s work will draw some negative reviews. Getting a bad review sucks. Whether it’s a bad performance review at work, or a bad review for a novel you’ve written, you take it personally. Other people like it, why does this other person dislike my novel?
We want to please everyone. The fact that the books we write or are going to write aren’t universally adored fuels our anxieties and insecurities. I say balls to that. Forget pleasing everyone. The only person you’re supposed to please is yourself, bad reviews be damned. Of course they’ll sting, but the good reviews make up for those stings. They’re the salve that soothe those stings.
There’s always a silver lining to a bad review, if one reads a bad review closely. For example, if my manager tells me I dropped the ball on a certain project I was working on, I’ll take that as my cue to look back and understand where it was I failed, and how I can improve my performance the next time around. I’ve had my work torn apart many times during writers’ groups, and I’ve resist the urge to yell and scream at those who critiqued my work. I’ve also been on the other side, giving my honest feedback. It’s going to hurt, but I look at it this way: as much as I don’t like you blowing smoke up my ass, I won’t blow smoke up yours.
The point is, there’s a right way to accept criticism, and one should never accept criticism personally. Take the high road, you know, and use criticism as a learning tool.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of writers that do take criticism personally. These writers are known as the Authors Behaving Badly, reacting poorly and unprofessionally to negative criticism and reviews, and sometimes resorting to stalking and bullying against the reader who dared post a negative review against them online. Here’s a few examples:
– Author Phil Torcivia strongly believes that negative criticism has no place on the Internet, and should be direct to the author discreetly. Okay, fine. I don’t agree, but fine, that’s his opinion. But he takes this belief over the line by insisting that he cannot find a way to forgive the person who posted a negative review of novel, because forgiving such a sin only allows her to do the same to other writers. What the fuck? Wait, it gets better…he concludes his rant by declaring that revenge is the only alternative, and he will post a negative review of her novel, just so she can get a taste of her own medicine! TAKE THAT, YOU SHREW!
He gets his shit jumped for displaying such obnoxious behavior, though. Kudos to the readers of this blog for calling out his bullshit.
– Melissa Douthit reacts to a negative review of another author’s novel (again: not hers) by launching a personal attack against the reviewer, who maintains a pseudonym and avatar that isn’t her. Douthit reveals the reviewer’s identity, posting her real photo, her home address, and her e-mail address. A classic example of cyberbullying. How disgusting.
This was a fight Melissa Douthit lost, and lost badly.
– This one is just plain silly: not only did Emily Giffin’s husband react badly to a negative review posted on Amazon by slamming the reviewer online, but then Emily Giffin’s assistant joins the fray and blast anyone who dares give Emily Giffin’s new novel a bad review, and, to make matters even worse, Emily Giffin herself passive-aggressively posts update after update both admonishing her husband for reacting badly to negative reviews, and then post more updates whining about getting bad reviews. To make matters worse, some of Giffin’s fans decide to take matters into their own hands and start harrassing the woman who posted the first negative review that started this frascas in the first place.
What a dumb shit Emily Giffin comes across as, especially for a well-known author such as her. A little fucking restraint would have helped her a great deal here.
– Finally, a negative review of “The Greek Seaman” prompts an EPIC meltdown from Jacqueline Howett, the novel’s author. An example of an Author Behaving Badly so unbelievably badly, this ended up making the rounds all over the Internet. If you haven’t read this, enjoy. If you haven’t read this one in a while, take a read and remember Howett’s epic fail.
I can’t help but shake my head when I read these examples of Authors Behaving Badly. Reading these meltdowns closely, you can see how deeply the insecurities run through them. I mean, if you’re spending hours concocting fantasties about exacting revenge against readers who’ve dared to post bad reviews, or clashing with readers on GoodReads or Amazon or any other forum, then why are you really writing?
Bad reviews are inevitable. Remember that. So stop being so insecure about bad reviews.