When I see a movie I really like, I usually head over to the Internet Movie Database to find out what other viewers thought of it. It never ceases to amaze me how different the reactions can be. Especially when the movie I thought was a 10-star, absolutely brilliant piece of work gets one star from several people, with post titles like DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME and A COMPLETE MESS.
I often wonder if these people saw the same movie I saw or had somehow wandered into a theater that was showing a counterfeit version. I constantly have to remind myself that viewing “art” or creative work is a completely subjective process.
There has been a debate going on in several blogs lately about literary vs. genre fiction and the “snobbery” we sometimes encounter in the book world. I jumped into the conversation in reaction to several comments suggesting that there are good books and bad books, period. And while I understand the sentiment of such a statement, I still believe it’s all subjective. Who decides what’s good and what’s bad?
We all do. For ourselves. And no one else can tell us how to define these things. As the old saying goes, “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.” There are those, like myself, who think chef Roy Yamaguchi is a genius. And there are others who prefer the simple recipes of chef Ronald McDonald. Go figure. But who am I to tell them they’re wrong?
So what this all brings me to is the title of this post: Bruised Egos. What every writer has to prepare him or herself for when his children are finally out there in the world is criticism. Not everyone is going to love your book.
I have gotten several complimentary emails and comments from people who have read KISS HER GOODBYE. It’s always very gratifying to know that my story and characters resonated with them in some way, that they rushed home to finish reading the book, that they’ve passed the book on to friends or family members because they want to share the experience.
But for every ten of those reactions to your work, there’s always one who didn’t care for it. And in this day of the Internet, a simple Google search while steer you straight to that one.
No matter how much you prepare yourself for criticism, nothing bruises your ego more than a negative remark about your work. Tess Gerritsen has talked about this on her blog, about some of the scathing remarks reviewers have made and her attempts to deal with them.
The trick, of course, is to simply let it roll off your back, remind yourself that this is only ONE person out of ten. But the human animal seems to have this strange need to remember only the negative. When we look back at our lives we often look back at the mistakes we made rather than revel in our accomplishments.
As you may have guessed by now, I recently stumbled across a reader’s reaction to my work that was less than favorable. He was clearly not impressed with my book and his comments cut right to the bone.
I don’t say this to elicit sympathy or fish for compliments. I’m a big boy and I’ve been in rooms full of studio executives who have torn my work to pieces. But for some reason this reader’s negative comment sticks with me and, for the sake of my damaged ego, I have to remind myself that our definitions of good and bad truly ARE subjective.
I have to remind myself that every time I go to the Internet Movie Database, the range of viewers opinions about the same piece of work is all over the map. That you can’t please everyone and, if you think you’re going to, you’re deluded. It’s an impossible task.
Yet it sticks with you. The negative stuff. And I have to wonder why.
I doubt I’ll ever know the answer. And I suppose the only thing we writers can do is to let the wound heal, deal with the scars as best we can, and keep moving on.
Oh, and a good “Up yours, pal!” to our critics does wonders. But we should probably keep those to ourselves…. :)