Every once in awhile, I go to Amazon.com and read the reviews for my books. And most often, they are positive and encouraging. Recently, however, someone needed to get this off her mind about my picture book, I Love You So…”:
This is a book mass produced to rip off parents and grandparents who want to tell a child s/he is loved. The text is cheesy, repetitive, like straight out of a Hallmark card, only less original. Please save your money.
Truthfully, however, if we’re writing for human consumption, we need to accept that some won’t like our writing, our style, our topic, our work. It’s a momentary sting to the soul for sure, but don’t let it de-rail you from your passion and prose.
How to Handle a Negative Review of your Work
As the quote above surmises, if you want to avoid criticism, then you may as well lock yourself in a closet. If you’re going to play in the public arena, however, you need to steel yourself for the inevitable sting of negativity. Here’s how I handle it.
1. Accept it as part of the Craft.
That’s right. In the same way you accept (even anticipate) writer’s block and rejection letters, you can expect criticism. And the wider your reach, the more there will be. Re-frame criticism as proof that you’re getting out there and revel in the reality that your work is worthy of garnering a reaction, good or bad. Criticism means you are not appealing to a certain type of reader. If this is balanced by praise from others, then feel affirmed that you indeed stand for a particular point of view!
2. Ponder it for Truth.
After we get over the first “ugh,” of a negative comment, ponder it for any pearls of wisdom. I have always been more comfortable in my role of writer versus artist and frankly, feel less confident as illustrator. A couple years back, a veteran buyer from Barnes and Noble commented that my artwork seemed “hurried.” I bristled at the statement, but knew, deep down, she was sensing something I needed to heed.
3. Consider the Source.
There are gripers out there. The people who put a note in every suggestion box. Write letters to the editor. They simply need to be heard. Do they impact your success in a direct way? If not, let it go. If, however, the person offering critique is a buyer, editor, agent, bookstore owner or other industry player, then you may want to explore things further. Engage them. Ask for input or advice. Learn. Partake of their professional wisdom.
How thick is your skin?
Share how a criticism you received was helpful or hurtful? Did it stop you cold or spur you on? Any other advice for handling this reality of a writer’s world? Let’s encourage each other today.