surviving bad reviews

Advice from Tea Jay

The internet has been a kind place to me so far…well, if you exclude the few people commenting that I should stop whining and just kill myself for fuck’s sake (someone shut this woman up, get her off the stage!). I don’t tend to think about those messages though. If you’re not including the times at two in the morning where I’m wide awake staring at my ceiling, allowing my thoughts to gnaw away at any inkling of sanity that I have. Oh, those are the times when thoughts of suicide narrowly creep their way back into my brain.

I’d like to think I’m the kind of cool, calm, and collected person who can get a negative review and shrug it off. But that’s not me. I’m the person who reads one inkling of criticism and instantly get hot; every failure I’ve ever had, every time I’ve been rejected, every bad thought instantly flashes in my head and I’m put back in my place. The idea that maybe I’m not as successful or happy as I make myself out to be, that maybe the damages I’ve been working so hard to heal within myself are coming apart at the seams and I’m cracking, I’m really cracking here.

It always perplexes me, because I take negative remarks so personal. I’m the kind of person who loves everybody, and even in the people I don’t like to hang around I try to find something to love about them. And when I love, it’s big. I suffocate people with my bear hugs of gratitude. I shower people with undying affection. People drown in my kisses, my tears, my every emotion that I put on display for the world to see and bare witness to. I’m not allowed to ask for this same intensity from others; typical people don’t feel on this level of intensity or insanity that I do.

How cursed I am, to love so deeply but have it rarely reciprocated.

When people don’t like you, you’re supposed to accept it. Move on, continue with your life, and understand the fact that they’re just a path to not cross. But when people don’t like me? I start picking at all the imperfections in my identity, wondering what I did wrong, what major thing about me I can change is. I’m not comfortable with rejection, but then again, is anybody? I don’t get what makes me so damn unlikable by people, what makes them question my artistic capability, my personality, my being.

So when I receive a one star review on a book I poured my heart and soul into…being called “the worst book I’ve ever read,” you can imagine that I feel a little broken right now.

Naturally, I am choosing to cope by writing this. Create art with the burned ruins of failure, right?

When you get a bad review about your art you are told that any publicity is good publicity. You will be told that not everyone will like your work, that’s not how art works. You’ll be told to forget about them. And maybe that will help. Maybe it won’t. Maybe you’ll still spiral.

I think it’s important to let a bad review knock the wind out of you. I think it’s important to relish in that moment of disapproval. It’s a little grounding, although the landing can feel like plummeting from space, your body hitting earth shattering into a crater. This is an uncomfortable process; because in these rejecting comments there is growth. There are ideas of how to tweak your writing style to be stronger. Even in the nastiest reviews there are silver linings of how you can improve.

I think sometimes as creators we forget that we aren’t actual gods although we invest so much of our time building new worlds for people to enjoy. Perhaps we need the bad reviews, to remind us of our humanity, our mortality.

Just don’t be me and let a bad review consume you? Your writing deserves more credit than I give myself.

About the writer: Tea Jay is a 25-year-old stay at home mother and author. She writes with a heavy focus on mental health including personality disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts, and things she finds stigmatized. Her focus is to help start the discussion for mental health and write realistic and entertaining works of fiction. Her current project, Recollection of Recovery, is a year in her own life entries of experimental recovery techniques and options for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

4 Comments

  1. Security Guard

    Well, I once attended a talk and the speaker, who’s a published author, told us that bad reviews do not always have a negative influence on the writer.

    One reason is that there are readers out there who make it a point to read books with bad reviews. Sometimes, out of curiosity, readers will want to read a book to see if it is actually as bad as the review says. Sometimes, they just want to prove the reviewer wrong. Readers like that do exist.

    Also, in the age of paid reviewers, an overly positive review of a new book may not be trusted by experienced bookworms.

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  2. R. Michael

    I appreciate constructive criticism. With my first couple books I took those reviews to heart and re-released them. What I don’t like are 1-Star ratings on Goodreads without an explanation. Since Goodreads often acts like a catalogue system for readers, and people rate books sometimes based on their interest instead of their genuine opinion it is frustrating to me. Especially since you can get hammered with 1-Star reviews on Goodreads which drags your author rating down. I find this more confounding when the same book will get positive reviews from trustworthy reviewers or on Amazon.

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