While I appreciate reviews as a reader, I have learned to read them in moderation when they are about my own books. Whether the reviews are positive or negative, I’m always aware of the emotional potential for cans to open up revealing worms I would rather avoid.
While honest feedback on a work in progress is vital, a critique from a stranger on the internet once the work is finished doesn’t tend to help me as a writer. Still, sometimes I read them.
I recently read a review of Grace for the Good Girl where the reviewer basically said she wanted to shake me during the first half of the book. Another said she felt like the book was redundant. As if I said things over and over again, things that didn’t need repeating.
(See what I did there?)
Even though I still don’t think it’s the best idea for me to read a lot of reviews of my own work, I’m glad I did this time. Because something happened when I read them that wouldn’t have happened 18 months ago.
I laughed. I laughed because I kind of agree with them. Sometimes I read some of my own words and I want to shake me, too.
It’s easy to say you would do things differently if you had the chance, but life (and our unfortunate lack of time traveling machines) doesn’t give us the chance to do the same things differently.
We only have the chance to do the next thing now.
I hope my next book isn’t redundant. But you know, it might be.
Either way, one person’s redundancy is another person’s needed reminder.
What one person may call Christianese is another person’s lifeline.
What one person may call an unnecessary story might change another person’s life.
You can’t control the outcomes of your work. But if you read too many reviews (or ask for too many opinions) you might start to try. This is bad for everyone involved. Meaningful work flows out of an artist working from acceptance, not a technician working for acceptance.
You can only do the best with what you’ve been given and what you know at the time. Accept your truest identity from the hand of God. And then be honest, remain open, and keep a light heart along the way.
“For the most part wisdom comes in chips rather than blocks. You have to be willing to gather them constantly, and from sources you never imagined to be probable. No one chip gives you the answer for everything. No one chip stays in the same place throughout your entire life. The secret is to keep adding voices, adding ideas, and moving things around as you put together your life. If you’re lucky, putting together your life is a process that will last through every single day you’re alive.”
Ann Patchett, What Now?
What are some ways you keep a light heart about your work?