Over my career I’ve written millions of published words across 25 books. I’ve also sold more than half a million copies of my books, and my average rating on Amazon is 4.7 stars so it’s fair to say that people like them.
So, why is it that a comment or review about how one of my books is boring just shreds me?
Truth is, no matter how far along you are in your writing career, the challenge of receiving feedback never ends. When we pour ourselves into a story and then share it with other people we make ourselves vulnerable to other people’s opinions. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at it or how much success you have. The sting of a negative comment or a bad review is not going to go away. There’s a reason that famous authors are known for getting on Twitter and blasting people who didn’t like their work. It’s an impulse that everyone has to fight, forever.
Feedback is just part of the process, and it’s actually even harder when it’s something that you feel confident about. I feel very confident in my writing, and I should, for all of the reasons that I listed at the beginning of this blog post and more. I’ve built a pretty substantial resume for my writing career through my actions. I’m doing well, and continuing to improve, but I still feel that jab when I get a negative comment, and I know I’m not alone in this.
Some authors choose to withdraw from any sort of public feedback. They don’t read their comments, they don’t read reviews, and they just say, “You know what, I know that I’m good at what I do. I’m successful in my career, and I’m just going to continue on this path regardless of what anyone else thinks.” While there is something to be said for distancing yourself from the court of public opinion, there is one area in which the court of public opinion is incredibly helpful.
It helps you gain a broader perspective, which in turn nearly guarantees improvement in your craft.
One of the really challenging things about creating art is that it’s personal, and as a result, it’s locked into our perspective. No matter how broad our perspective might be, it’s still objectively narrow as there’s only so much that we can see at any one time. Almost invariably, when I create something and I give it to somebody, they see something different because their perspective is different. Often, they’ll read what I’ve written and say, “Oh, this is really good, except I noticed this,” and I’ll think to myself, “How did I miss that?”
It seems so obvious now that somebody has said it, but I just completely overlooked it, or I forgot about it entirely. Worse still, sometimes that increased perspective just reinforces a doubt that we already had about ourselves, making it hard to continue being creative.
There is, however, a middle ground.
If you can learn to listen to what people are saying while distancing yourself from the art you’ve created, it is possible to accept both positive and negative feedback while maintaining your equilibrium. You can make the art that you want to make and listen to what other people say, get their perspective, and apply what is helpful while discarding what is not.
This requires judgment. It requires wisdom in understanding what is one person’s preference versus an actual failing. Learning to pick through feedback and understand what is helpful and what is not, takes time. It takes experience. And it takes being willing to feel that heart-stab when you read something negative about the work you have poured your life into.
When I get a review that says this book is boring, and I got some of those reviews on my last book, I can compare that to the overall rating of the book, what other people are saying about it, how hard I worked on it, how well it’s selling, etc…
We don’t listen to feedback in a vacuum. We weigh that feedback against what we know to be true so we can apply it in a constructive way.
YouTube Video Link: https://youtu.be/nGp5xP-T5bc
Thanks for reading and watching.
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