Tuesday, February 23
Bad Reviews, An AWOL Muse, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Part of the How They Do It Series (Monthly Contributor)
So, bad reviews suck. That’s a fact. Whether it’s from a book blogger, an anonymous Amazon customer, or even a beta-reader, a bad review can drill a hole through our Muse and scare the poor little sprite into hiding amidst the laundry pile or even diving into the dirty toilet—taking us with them, sorting clothes, scrubbing nasties, anything to avoid writing, which we automatically decide we’re no longer good at because…bad reviews suck and when we get one it is easy to lose perspective.
And perspective is everything.
One of my worst reviews ever—scathing, cold, contemptuous, sarcastic…everything about my novel pulled ever trigger of hatred for this reviewer—came on the best possible day I could have received it. There I was, reeling a little and stinging a lot from the annihilation, trying to lose myself in the mindlessness that can be social media, when a Facebook friend posted one Red Hot Chili Peppers track. Then another. Still another. Red Hot Chili Peppers everywhere. Dominating my newsfeed. I was already full of all sorts of butt-hurt over my novel’s scathing review and…Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Please know that I really—really, really—do not like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And let me tell you: I know music. I listen to tunes all day long. Have specific track-lists for working out. A soundtrack for every fiction project. I kick butt at music trivia games and I even put myself through University working in a record store (remember those?). There isn’t a musical genre out there that I do not a) have in my collection and b) appreciate thoroughly (okay: maybe no 1970’s I’m-wearing-my leisure-suit-and-crooning-about-cheating-on-my-wife-yet-you-should-feel-sorry-for-me country. A person’s gotta have some standards). So talk about insult to injury: a craptastic review, and then I get to be serenaded by the Peppers.That’s just wrong, man. So many shades of wrong.
Strangely rabid, though, I started to fixate. To count the ‘likes’ my friend’s Chili Peppers vids were getting. A couple likes. A dozen likes…50 freakin’ likes?! How? Whhhyyyy? I sneered my way through the positive commentary, all my inner angst and impotent loathing focused on the poor old Peppers.
And then, finally, there it was: a comment that said, oh-so pithily: RHCP suck.
I swear to you I read that and looked, immediately, like this:
…and, I can also assure you that the irony had not quite settled over me. Yet.
Books and music. Art and poetry. Isn’t there a saying that goes a little something like: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” I think so. Alongside that it should also say: “And no one, in the big scheme of things, really cares what your opinion is.” People will like what they like. Love what they love. Despise what pisses them off and hate things that grind every last one of their gears.
And who knows why? And, what’s more? It’s okay. It’s okay even when it does feel crappy that your novel just got shat on, or when some self-important music aficionado just barfed on your favorite band.
I follow publicist Beverly Bambury and she frequently grabs the authors she reps by the ear, yanks them clear away from amazon and goodreads, implying that nothing good can come of following their own reviews. That’s probably true and yet, here’s a confession: I love goodreads (I know lots of folks don’t). I like to add and organize my bookshelves on there (those wee covers are so *cute!*) and I am an enthusiastic reader who loves to share everything that made me fall head over heels for a story. That said, though, I think that as writers we might do ourselves more good than harm when we just keep scrollin’ past the bullets (aka: the scathing reviews) that might jar our already rickety beliefs in our own talents, skills, and abilities. ‘Cause we are artists, and we should expect ourselves to react sensitively. It’s actually our job as writers to be sensitive.
So what’s left to do, though, when you either give into temptation and look, or even accidentally trip over a review that makes you want to light your work-in-progress on fire (which I did once in an epic temper-tantrum. Possibly not my finest moment). I confess I am really not sure what the best course of action is. I am still really new at this. But…maybe it would help to pour a bathtub-sized glass of wine. Drink deeply. Rinse. Repeat.
Booze not your thing?
Chocolate is never wrong. In fact, chocolate is a multi-purpose panacea; good for both celebrations and solace.
Eat the chocolate.
Not got a sweet tooth?
Potato chips are not always the enemy. Crunch them. Splurge and buy dip. (Knowing that if it’s Herb & Garlic there’s a good chance I’ll come over, my own bottle of wine under my arm (hey, if you don’t want to drink that doesn’t mean I won’t) and a few errant chocolate-covered almonds rolling around in the bottom of my purse).
Get the bad review and drink the wine. Savor the chocolate. Crunch the chips and…listen to The Red Hot Chili Peppers. They have enough fans to populate an entire country. They sell out stadiums. They are iTunes darlings. And their critics—like me—are neither right nor wrong, but one thing I can tell you for certain: they are definitely not the majority.
Bonnie Randall is a Canadian writer who lives between her two favorite places—the Jasper Rocky Mountains and the City of Champions: Edmonton, Alberta. A clinical counselor who scribbles fiction in notebooks whenever her day job allows, Bonnie is fascinated by the relationships people develop—or covet—with both the known and unknown, the romantic and the arcane.
Her novel Divinity & The Python, a paranormal romantic thriller, was inspired by a cold day in Edmonton when the exhaust rising in the downtown core appeared to be the buildings, releasing their souls.
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