Thursday, June 08, 2006

Quote o' the Week

"Writing is essentially a private toil. You have very few things to work with -- the gifts you were born with, which nobody can change, and some ability to educate yourself in a literary way, which you must do on your own. There's only one thing that can be given externally, and that is the inspiration of praise." -- Cynthia Ozick

Since it's just about time for my next book to come out (July 25!), I've started to have niggling thoughts about reviews. Well, okay, I've started to worry about them.

I don't think it'll come as any great surprise to anybody that a writer wants his or her work to be appreciated, and preferrably, praised. We all want to hear we've done a good job, whatever that job may be.

What I like best about the above quote is the use of the word "inspiration." Praise validates us as a writer (other people think we've done well!) and it also makes it easier to write again -- to inspire us.

Not surprisingly, on the days I get a good review, working on the next book is a lot easier than the days I get a bad review. In that case, I'm the opposite of inspired. I feel defeated. I may be angry and defeated, if the review seems particularly snarky, but defeated nonetheless. On days like that, I may not write at all. I may go do something else, because at that point, I feel like whatever I do, it's not going to be "good enough."

Fortunately, this feeling passes. Now that I've been at this a number of years, it passes fairly quickly. For one thing, no review has ever cost me my career. Had some doozies in my time, and look, Ma! Still selling! Still selling well! So I know that reviews actually have very little power.

I've also learned to take note of the "type" of reviewer. For instance, many a "new" reviewer seems to feel the need to "make her bones" by being negative. Now that they've got an audience, they're going to prove they "know their stuff" and it won't be with praise.

There are some reviewers who take fiendish glee in being "clever" at the author's expense. They prove how smart, how discerning, they are by slamming your work. Fortunately, this sort of pride is easily spotted, and easily overcome. To them I say, "Good for you!" That's it, that's all. Good. For. You.

However, even when I can rationalize bad reviews into meaninglessness, they still sting like iodine on a paper cut. But that's the price I pay to write books. To get paid to make things up. And how sweet is that?

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