I had a fellow writer email me not that long ago. She’d just found out that she didn’t finalise in a competition and was feeling down and dejected. I know of another writer that spent eight years receiving rejections from publishers before sinking into her ‘dark night of the soul’ and wondering if it was time to hang up her pen. Another author friend posted about a negative review she’d received, stating that usually she didn’t let them get to her, but this one had…
The undeniable truth is that sharing our creation with others involves judgement and evaluation. Some of that feedback gives us the high we’ve dreamed of since the moment we decided to publish. But some of that scrutiny sucks the wind out of our motivation. In this article, I don’t want to discuss the merit of that constructive criticism (in my experience some has some value, some is nothing more than an individual’s opinion), but how to handle the days that it knocks the smile off your face, undermines the faith in your talent, and has us reaching for wine or chocolate or a rerun of Friends – now that I can help you with.
First of all, I need you to humour me…
When I say ‘Africa’, what image comes to mind?
Something like this?
A land of magnetic beauty, elemental power, untamed colours. A continent of wide open planes and diverse vistas and majestic mountains. A country accented with the soundtrack of lions roaring, elephants trumpeting and hyena’s cackling. A spectacular smorgasbord of everything Mother Nature has to offer.
The country with the highest child death rate, where there are 33 maternal deaths every hour, where an estimated 6.1 million people are living with HIV, where 358 million people don’t have access to clean water. A land of drought and overpopulation, deserts and corruption, death and poverty.
So which is the real Africa?
Technically both. And neither. More accurately, they’re just snapshots on a continuum of images and truths.
But this is what our mind does. It neatly parcels information into easily digestible portions. It has to create these little packages, these representations of our world, so it can cope with the volume of information it’s dealt with every day. Can you imagine trying to store, organise and retrieve all those details??? The filing cabinet in my head is already a mess, and that’s just the index cards! It’s a very clever and necessary process.
Are you starting to see how this relates to opinions of our writing? Our mind does the same thing with our perceptions of ourselves. It makes mental shortcuts, generalisations, and quite a few assumptions to fill in the gaps.
Allow me to demonstrate…
Which is the real Tamar?
- Award-Wining Author – I’ve won the Romance Writers of Australia First Kiss competition twice (2015 and 2017) along with finalising in a couple of others.
- Positive reviews for my work have included statements like – ‘The story is brilliant, it draws you in from the first word’, ‘I have read other paranormal books before and this is among one of the best’, and my personal favourite ‘much better than Twilight’.
- I’ve just been invited to be a Resident Writing Coach with a major writer’s website (more information on that coming soon – I’m super-duper excited about it!).
- An author that has failed to place in some competitions, with feedback that encouraged her to ‘keep trying’.
- Her manuscript was rejected time and time again (I chose not to count…).
- Some of her reviews have included statements like ‘seemed promising but failed’, ‘it was meh’ and the cutting ‘very bad, would not recommend’.
So which is the real Tamar? Which is the true reflection of my skills and abilities?
If I were to identify with the first description, my self-esteem would border on narcissistic (and there are not a lot of nice things to say about narcissism).
If I identify with the second list, I could end up wondering why I’m wasting my time with this writing caper.
Luckily, just like Africa, I am both and neither.
The real Tamar is a person that moves along a continuum of skills, thoughts and personality traits. You can’t capture her in a sentence, in a website, in a whole encyclopaedia. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this.
I’d encourage you to reflect on this, because what it shows us is that:
You are not one thing, good or bad.
You are not static, now or ever.
You are a kaleidoscope, you are perpetual motion, you are…a writer.
So when you get some negative feedback, whether it’s a harsh judge, or a brutal review, keep this in mind. I would love to hear what you think. Is it useful to remember that one perspective does not define us? Will it make a difference to how you feel about negative feedback? Comments and feedback are always appreciated. Connecting with others is why I write. You can comment below, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Have a wonderful week,