On Pins and Needles

pins-and-needles-purple-cushionI once sat on a panel of authors and we were fielding questions from an audience of teenagers. One of the questions was, “What is the hardest thing about being a writer?” My immediate response was “Rejection Letters”, but when the writer to my left said “Bad Reviews” I quickly retracted my answer to agree with hers.

The funny thing about authors is that even if the review is 99.9% glowing and full of praise, the only thing that the author (the ones I know, anyway) will remember is the one teeny tiny little criticism. I guess it’s human nature. We don’t remember the warm glow from compliments we receive nearly as well as we remember the sting of put-downs. I admire those authors who claim they don’t bother reading reviews of their books. I’m not one of them. When I’m reading a seemingly good review and come to the word ‘unfortunately’, or ‘but’, I groan inwardly even though I’ve been told that a bad review is better than no review at all. Hmm….

These weeks following the launch of a new book are a vulnerable time. No one likes to be told that their new baby’s nose is too wide or its ears too big. A new book is an author’s new baby. As I sit on pins and needles, waiting for reviews of Allegra I vow to hold onto any positive comments it receives as tightly as I do the negative ones and I will try not to take any criticisms as personal attacks.

Send me strength.


6 thoughts on “On Pins and Needles

  1. I, too, can speak from experience, although not in terms of a book review. I’ve taught classes with a hundred students in them and received glowing course evaluations, with the exception of one or two. As you wrote in your post, of course I fixate on the negative ones! I was tormented in this way for years, until I decided – or realized – just how subjective any kind of evaluation really is. In the book industry, the subjectivity is legendary! In terms of my own writing, I have someone tell me they love my characters, and another person say the exact opposite. And so it goes. When the shoe is on the other foot, how many times have we tried to read a book that everyone loves, but find we just can’t get into it? Or watch a movie with similar results? I truly believe that once we start to feel that confidence in our own judgment, teaching, writing – whatever – it makes the reviews and rejection letters that much easier to take! I made a vow to myself on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago to live my life from the inside out, meaning to not let others’ opinions of me and what I do take precedence in my own life. It’s not always easy to follow that dictum, but it’s well worth the confidence such an attitude brings! Shelley, your writing is so amazing! I hereby send you all the strength that it’s in my power to give!

    • Thanks Louisa. Such wise words. I’m a lot more thick-skinned than I used to be, but I still like to at least consider a critique in case there is something to be learned from it. That said, I’m getting better at tossing the critiques that I don’t agree with. I’m glad you’re getting better at this too!

      • Of course you’re right about that too – there is still much to be learned from constructive criticism! I never meant to imply otherwise 😉

  2. Dear Shelley,
    I’ve learnt from many years of being a photo-journalist; freelance writer; author and publisher of seventeen books – songs, plays, film scripts; poems that: “CORRECTION IS NOT REJECTION!”

    I would agree wholeheartedly with you Shelley, that it is the one negative word or letter of rejection or criticism we as authors or writers seem to ponder on more than the praise ones!!!


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