Thursday, March 09, 2006

And I thought a bad review messed with my head...

I read something in the paper this morning that left me gobsmacked and saddened. A Canadian writer who wrote a book that was very well-reviewed and sold accordingly had a subsequent book that received a bad review in a national newspaper. There were other reviews that were better, but because of that one terrible review, the writer quit writing for ten years.

What the --? Good Lord, I've had some really rotten reviews in my day - the kind that made it sound as if not only am I a depraved idiot as well as a rotten writer, but everybody who likes my work must be nuts, too. Yet I was never so despondent that I considered chucking writing entirely.

To be honest, I did go through a stretch where my confidence sagged really, really badly, and I was tempted to throw up my hands and give up, but it was a combination of many factors -- midling reviews, feeling like I wasn't getting anywhere career-wise, probably hormones and other life experiences. Nevertheless, I perservered. I kept selling books. My career propects took an upswing. If I'd quit? None of that would have happened.

I had to wonder -- would it have been better if the first book hadn't received so many accolades? Would a few midling reviews have given this writer some armor against the bad one? Basically, though, I was just stunned that a writer would give one critic that much power.

Then I wondered if the critic read that article, and if so, how did he or she feel? I don't blame the critic for the author's extreme reaction, though. Expressing an opinion is what the critic's paid to do. I can only feel sorry that the writer took that review so much to heart and let it so utterly destroy her confidence.

The writer's actually rewritten the second book and gotten it published with a new title. This made me sad, too. Move on and keep writing -- but something new. That's the best antidote I know to a lousy review.

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