When a writer receives a thoughtful, positive or even glowing review of their work, it can make a huge difference to their day. Instead of the glass being half empty, it can very easily become half full, and the encouragement from readers help them to feel good about the way forward for their writing. However, successful writing is all about perspective. Without it the adage may be true – we can’t see the wood for the trees.
The healthy writer, while able to celebrate success, is able to manage disappointment by taking a step back and viewing the LANDSCAPE of their work and career. In this way, there’s no single success that leaves the writer boastful, arrogant or with an overwhelming sense of their own importance; neither is there any one failure that makes them feel like jumping off the edge of a cliff.
So how should the healthy writer react when the feedback they receive is a real stinker? You can have dozens, even hundreds of positive reviews for your work, but that rogue review, like a thorn in the flesh, can pierce the writer who lacks perspective, in a way that calls into question everything they’ve ever done. So what’s the answer? Suck it up and learn from it!
Andy Kind, an author and comedian, once told me:
‘We have no right to be liked. Just because we’ve invested so much in the writing doesn’t mean that other people have to … Like with any book, you have to be prepared that some people (maybe lots of people) will hate it. Not just feel ambivalent, but strongly dislike it. This is what you let yourself in for the moment you started writing!’
That is good advice. Humility is needed for our successes and failures and we must learn from our readers by listening first.
As artists, we can be a temperamental bunch. Our mood swings can change as often as our word count, but one thing the healthy writer must not allow negative feedback to do, is rob them of the joy of writing. Disappointments and trials can leave us bitter or better – the choice is ours, but the writer who has a healthy perspective of their work will not forget why they chose to write in the first place.
How do we maintain a healthy perspective as a writer?
First and foremost, we must understand our true value as human beings. Before we are writers, we are fathers, brothers, daughters, sisters, mothers, lovers.
If we don’t know how to love ourselves as human beings, we will fail to see the true value of our work. This can be a real hindrance to a writer, if the impossible high standards we set ourselves actually rob us of the right ‘fuel mix’ to write. Wrestle at times we must, but if it is all one big wrestle, then something is wrong. Sometimes we have to take a break from our writing, sit back and smell the roses!
Life is a rich tapestry
Life is like a rich tapestry that is weaved with the multi-coloured threads of human experience. Look on the back of any tapestry and you will see quite a mess, a tangle of threads— frayed, knotted, unruly and quite random. Turn it over and there is the result of the hard work. There is little if any growth in our writing without overcoming the trials and difficulties we face every day. The quality of our writing, not to mention, our character, is enhanced by learning from our successes and failures. No thread of writing—good or bad—is wasted.
Four Rooms … and a Funeral!
One lady brought for the consideration of the four dealers, her painting depicting Lady Diana with her husband and her boys. This lady had spent hundreds of hours painting the royal scene and clearly delighted with her finished work, was hoping that her painting would fetch a figure of around £10,000. Cringe worthy and derisory could be the only way to describe the offers the four dealers made for her work. A few even seemed to relish the fact that they would only offer fifty pounds for her labour of love and painstaking work.
As a viewer, I couldn’t bear to watch it. The painter was crushed. Not merely disappointed, but in shock. She had made the mistake of allowing the opinion of a few to judge the value of her time and investment. For that moment (and only that moment, I hope), she looked robbed.
Learn from others, but before you do, understand your own value and self worth. Then you will have a far more balanced view of your own writing, and quite possibly, add both quality and longevity to your writing career.
In the words of the Trekkie hero, Spock, may you, ‘Live long and prosper’.