Stay Out of Their Kitchen

Terribly interesting post at Romancing the Blog yesterday. Nasty is the New Naughty. It reminded me of an incident a few years ago. A colleague who had a few published books under her belt, books with a major publisher, books that had been well received, came across some scathing comments about her work at a readers' discussion board. A few of these readers considered her latest release a 'wall banger' and bluntly explained why.

The author was crushed. I can understand this. I'd be hurt and disappointed too if I came across people trashing something I'd put my heart and soul into. What I didn't understand was why this author kept going back to that discussion board, time and again, to read additional incoming negative remarks. Why subject yourself to something you know hurts. She obssessed on these few readers opinions and, within a couple of weeks, she was so depressed that she considered never writing another book.

Her reaction may seem overdramatic as you read this, but I can understand how an extremely sensitve artist could be paralyzed by insecurity. These readers made her question her talent. Many artists grapple with insecurity daily. It's part of our make up. A good majority of us anyway. Putting yourself, your work, out there to begin with takes courage. Withstanding public criticism takes the heart of a lion. You absolutely MUST believe in yourself, your vision, your talent. Listen, learn, and grow from constructive criticism. Turn a deaf ear, or in this case, a blind eye, to those who rip apart your work based on personal preference. You can't please everyone.

Back to yesterday's Romancing the Blog post. Read the comments as well as the original post. Several people offered keen perspective. I won't repeat it here. In a nutshell, I believe readers are entitled to their opinion, of course. They should be able to discuss books honestly and openly, absolutely. (Although one would hope they would do so in a respectful manner. But I digress.) Point is, if you're the author they're dishing about and you can't take the heat... Stay out of their kitchen. (I know I would.)

I started to search for a witty, wise quote from a by-gone artist on criticism. Then I remembered something I read on another author's blog last year. Words of wisdom from her daughter, a young kid who'd just withstood ridicule from a few peers. Though clearly hurt, the young girl shrugged and said, "Opinions are like buttholes. Everybody has one." *g*


barb said…
Nicely put!
Here's a slightly different take on it. Perhaps, any publicity, good or bad, is still publicity!
Sometimes people won't remember what was said but they will remember a name.

Just a thought.
Nancy Henderson said…
Excellent post. We do struggle daily with insecurities. Sometimes they help. Oftentime, they can crush us if we let them.
Julia Templeton said…
I remember feeling gutted after receiving a less than flattering review a few years ago. For whatever reason the reader didn't like or connect with the story. I vented to friends for days, and then finally let it go.

Now I take reviews and comments with a grain of salt, and focus on the positive.

BTW, love your closing words of wisdom. *g* I'll have to remember that one.
Beth Ciotta said…
Barb, there is that ol' saying, yes. If you keep your cool and put a spin on bad PR, you could indeed benefit. I've seen it done.

Nancy, I envy those brimming with confidence. The best I can hope for is to be shaken, not crushed. (James Bond theme wells in the background)

Julie, venting to friends is healthy. I know I count on friends (like you) to help put things in perspective. Letting go, rising above, and moving on... that's the key.

Yeah, those words of wisdom are killer, aren't they? Now there's a bumper sticker that could get you in trouble. :)
Anonymous said…
While I agree with your post and all the comments about it--there are going to be bad things said about us, but also good, hopefully more good than bad--the old saw that opinions being like buttholes, well, unfortunately, not everybody has one. Here's a story about anorectal malformation.

Gotta watch those absolutes. Like the college professor said, "Nothing is true all the time," to which the student replied, "Even that?"

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