I may or may not be writing this because I received my first one-star review–not that I’m insecure enough to check or anything, and not that I shed a tear, or two…or thirty-eight over said review or anything as pathetic as that. OK, I read the reviews, all right?!?! Am I not human?! Do I not have moments of weakness?! I know I shouldn’t check, but I’m enough of an amateur to justify it. Thankfully, I have Taylor Swift to help me through these hard times and baby I’m just gonna shake it off, shake, shake, shake shake if off. Apparently haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
Anyway, I also have a cold which makes me irrational, tired, and insanely stuffy which means I couldn’t sleep last night which also means I was forced to think. As I dozed–alternating between breathing out of my mouth which became painfully dry to then closing my mouth to breath out of my nose which really meant I was dying a slow, suffocating death–I pondered on the fascinating predicament I am in as a “writer.” I put that in quotes because it feels like I’m faking it whenever I say that. Fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake.
The predicament is this: I have no control over whether people like my little book or not. I knew this going in. It scared me to death that something I wrote late at night in my holey jammies could someday be held in someone’s hands I had never met before…and they could HATE it! And me! And my words! And my family! And my dog! I wanted to meet everyone who read my book and plead for their compassion. I wanted to look into their eyes to show them I was a human being with feelings and flaws and insecurities and beg them to be nice to me. Alas, that would not only be impossible, but it just might have come off as scary. Really scary.
So, the leap of faith had to be taken, for which I will forever grateful. I have not only learned a lot about myself, but a lot about other people. Once I get over my despair upon discovering someone didn’t like the book, (just kidding…kind of) I get a chance to think of where they might be coming from. People who like the book may have had lives similar to mine, while those who don’t like it could be coming from a completely different place. Or maybe I am a crappy writer…
Shake it off. Shake it off.
For example. I have had a few people tell me that the stepmother is almost too wicked to be believable. This actually makes me happy. It makes me happy because that most likely means that they haven’t known anyone that “wicked.” They may be surprised to know that the stepmother is based on 2 or 3 real, live people I have known and that I actually had to hold back in order to make her more “believable.” While other people have said, “That sounded just like ________ in my life. She was just like that!”
We all have our own reasons for thinking something is good or bad. I remember the first time I read “Pride and Prejudice” as a freshman in college during finals week. I threw it across the room. Seriously. I did throw it softly, though, because I was borrowing it. I simply did not have the patience for it. Just tell me the story, Jane!! Geez! I could also have hated it because I wanted something nice and easy to read between studying, but instead it made me think too much and hurt my brain and infuriated me. Anyway, I read it again about fifteen years later while I nursed my baby and watched my kids play outside. I. Loved. It. Now, I’m not saying that if only people would read my book in relaxing, beautiful surroundings they’ll fall in love with it, I’m just saying we’re all coming from different places and that effects how we feel about everything. They also could have plain old hated it, and that’s cool. It’s not Jane Austen, for heaven’s sake!
I’m not a harsh critic. Maybe I’m too easily entertained or small-minded, but when I see a book, and I’m all like, “A book!” and I read it. Very rarely do I hate it enough to throw it across the room–you know, unless it’s a classic that’s loved, quoted, and renowned the whole world over. Just those ones. But other people are harsh critics and they have every right to be. That’s where they’re coming from. They may have impeccable taste, or simply be in a bad mood, or they genuinely thought the book was stupid, and they can go right ahead and feel that way. It’s just fascinating that some can love it and have it change their lives, while others hate it and throw it across the room. Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break.
It’s all in the eye of the reader. And when I say ‘eye’ I mean heart, mind, circumstances, past, feelings, surroundings, joys, sorrows, likes, dislikes. I’ve always know this, it just has new meaning to me. And this isn’t just about writing and putting a book out there. Everyone has a story. Everyone has talents and hopes and dreams that the rest of the world needs to hear and see and feel. But, we may get scared and hold ourselves back because we’re worried we might fail, or that other people might not like what we created.
Guess what I’m gonna say. Baby, shake it off.