Yesterday, while sifting through my Twitter feed I came across a discussion between bloggers regarding a recent article in The Guardian. The article outlined an author’s stalking of an online reviewer. As I read my jaw dropped—she didn’t. This can’t be real. No one would really do that, would they?
It got me thinking about how I’ll react to negative reviews. While I’m a first time author and I have yet to experience the heartache of a bad review, I do have experience in dealing with being in the public eye. Because of my husband’s work, we enjoy what I like to call ‘fame in a microcosm.’ People watch us.
Nineteen years ago when he first started, I had no idea how to handle the criticism that came our way–criticism about everything from the way I dress to what I make for dinner to how I raise my children to judgement of my motivations. I’ve been the target of gossip and had to sit and listen, and say nothing when people slammed someone I cared for deeply. Except, I’ve encountered this in real life and not online. Sometimes it’s even been from people I called friends, people I’d confided in. There was a time when I felt like it was destroying me, even a time when I wanted my husband out of that line of work, so that I didn’t have to deal with it anymore. I was afraid of what it would do to my children living in the midst of it. It took me to a really dark place.
And now, as I prepare to launch my first book, I also prepare for the criticism that will come with it. As certainly as the sun rises, it will come.
When you’re thrust into the public eye, this happens. It doesn’t make it okay, but you should know that it’s inevitable. I look at it this way—there has been no book in the history of books that has been universally loved and mine will be no different.
There are trolls out there. You’re not going to stop them and neither am I. Some people are like that. For some, feedback equals criticism, others seek attention, and still others hurt people to feel powerful. So don’t give them that power.
I’ve learned to focus on my supporters. Sometimes when I feel like lashing out, I think of those who have been encouraging. Those have been loyal friends. Those who have stood beside me through good and bad. Those are the people whose opinions really matter.
The other thing I’ve learned is to say to myself—I don’t care. I dress how I dress. I raise my children the way I believe is right. You can call me a bad mother, it wouldn’t be the first time, but I’ll continue on as I did before. If I want to make chicken for dinner
, it’s no one else’s business. You can like it or hate it. That’s up to you. I can’t control your opinion.
And it’s the same with my writing. I’ve already decided whose opinion matters–an decision every writer should make. But, then this also applies to good reviews. We can’t live from one positive word to the next, then die on every negative word. It hurts. I’m not going to say I’m not hurt when the criticism comes my way, but now I can withdraw myself from it, and give it only as much weight as it deserves.
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Melinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for teens. She’s learned that it can be tough living in a fish bowl, but also very rewarding. Her first book will be released November 22 from Rebelight Publishing Inc.