Walking Naked Across A Football Field

Opinions. We all have them. From the major, hot topic issues like politics and religion, to the inconsequential things like what color to paint your house or what breed of dog is best for your family, we each have our own viewpoint. And that’s the way it should be. Can you imagine a world in which every house was painted tan and every family had one black Labrador retriever and one white Persian cat? Differences of opinion are what give the world color and style. Our differences keep life interesting and challenge us to think; maybe even get us to step outside our comfort zone.

This is how I feel about reviews. Each review is an opinion. No review is fact.

Some authors get defensive and even irate when they receive a bad review. Put into perspective, this is an unwarranted and unreasonable reaction.

I’m not saying I enjoy getting bad reviews. Far from it! Of course they bother me. Back in 2009, when I first decided to take the leap into self-publishing, I read each review with trepidation. The positive ones had me elated for hours. The negative ones had me feeling defeated for days. The experience was like walking naked across the football field at half-time during the Super Bowl game and being booed by the masses. Yes, it was that personal, that intense, that shattering.

For most of us writers, each book we release to the world bears a piece of our soul. How can it not be personal?

Fortunately, I soon realized it made no sense for me to allow one person’s opinion to destroy me. Sure, a bad review still hurts. But it’s one person’s opinion, based on his or her expectations, taste, preference, mood, and life experience. It is not fact. And it is not about me, personally. As long as the positive reviews outweigh the negative reviews, I no longer lose sleep over the occasional person who doesn’t like what I write.

Because a reviewer for the New York Times proclaims a book to be brilliant does not mean I will love it. Even those exalted reviewers who sit on their reading chair thrones and make or break careers are only offering their opinions. Maybe that person also loves Brussels sprouts. I don’t like Brussels sprouts. That doesn’t make either of us right or wrong, just different. Thought about this way, the reasonable conclusion follows that the person who hated one of my books is still only one person, and I don’t have to agree with him or her any more than I agree with the reviewer from the New York Times.

So I’ve stopped walking naked across the football field. Now I keep my clothes on, which is good because I get cold easily. I respect that everyone has his/her own opinion. If you want to paint your house pink, and have a dog that’s half poodle and half St. Bernard, that’s entirely your right as an individual. If you read one of my books, hate it, and choose to write a bad review, that’s your right too. I’d prefer you loved it and told the world why, but I’d also prefer if people didn’t have loud, personal cell phone conversations in waiting rooms. As Mick Jagger tells us: You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.

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