Those Pesky Reviews

About those pesky reviews. Reviews are the bane and the joy of every writer’s life, something we dread and crave at the same time. Oh, the highs when we read our works are “sublime” or “gorgeous” or “magical” and the awards pour in. And then the lows, when we receive the dreaded two-star review or like when a recent reader said she “shouldn’t have wasted her money.”

Because of this, I choose to read reviews just once per month. I steel myself up for it as I log in to all the review sites: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, BookBub. Then I scroll, reading every word.

It reminds me of the week my mother in law died and I gave birth to my first daughter. Cards poured in. But I never knew as I opened each envelope if the sentiment would drive me to tears (“Heartfelt condolences on the death of such a lovely soul”) or elation (“A girl! A girl!”)

It’s the same with reviews. You never know what you’ll read or how you’ll react (writers are humans, after all). All artists, whether visual, performing, or applied, are often called egotists because we dare to put our deepest longings out into the world (we could conversely be called masochists because we freely put our soul on a plate for others to carve up).

One of the best pieces of advice I received early in the publishing journey is not to engage with reviews or reviewers. Take the good with bad, and hope the former outweighs the latter. Engaging with readers, yes, but only at readings and book clubs and conferences. Writing is a lonely enough endeavor that meeting readers is the icing on the proverbial cake, one of the highlights of this pathway we’ve chosen (did we choose it?)

So today, on the last day of the month, I’ll grab a coffee and sit down and take a deep breath. Like the old adage goes, a writer wakes up every morning not knowing if she’ll receive a drubbing or be offered a movie contract. We’ll see!

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