Friday, November 5, 2010

Developing A Thick Skin

Rosalie wrote a great post about reviews a few weeks ago, but they've been on my mind this week so I decided to talk about them briefly. I think criticism - constructive or otherwise - is something we all face in life and it's one of those things that can help make us or break us.

As someone who works in graphic design for her “day job” and writes for her “I hope will someday be full time” job, I know well how sensitive creative types can be. I'm definitely not exempt. It's hard when someone doesn't like your design or your book. We put so much of ourselves into them that it can be difficult not to get hurt feelings. But the important thing is what you do with those feelings. Do you bottle them up until you find yourself staring at the blinking cursor, paralyzed at the thought of sending something new out into the world? Or do you go online and defend your creation, because surely if you just say the right thing, they'll take their criticism back? After all, you've worked so hard.

The answer? No and no. The world is full of critics, and as tough a cookie as it may be to swallow, once someone pays for your design or your story, they feel justified in reviewing it. That is their right, just as we would feel comfortable complaining about a burger we ordered that was undercooked. Our creation is their consumable good, and if they aren't satisfied, they may tell people. Does that mean you did something wrong? Not necessarily. Everyone sees things differently. That's a good thing. Sometimes a review will point out something you could have handled better, and that's a bonus. That happened with me recently. I'd like to thank that reviewer, because now I'll be on the lookout for the potential problem she raised in my future manuscripts. But I didn't get into a discussion with her, because that can be a slippery slope. I just thanked her (in my head, in this case) and moved on. And my skin got just a little bit thicker.

I thought my first 1-star review or “poor” rating would hurt like hell. It did. I thought it would stop me from writing. It didn't. I search for what will help me from my reviews and return to my job, whether it's designing or writing. And each time I try to improve.

We've all been there, and really, I look at reviews as a badge of honor. To get your work reviewed means you're putting yourself out there. Some people will love your work. Some people will hate it. That's okay, because it means you've done your job. You've written the best story you could at that time. Take what you can use from reviews and leave the rest. Then go write your next book!


Madelyn Ford said...


I totally agree. Sometimes the less than positive reviews can be the most helpful. My only comment to reviewers, there is a way to be critical without being hurtful. I think readers and reviewers alike forget we are human and we have feelings. Stomping all over them just because they can is not cool.

Taryn Elliott said...

great post, Cari.
you've been amazing with all the reviews you've gotten. most of them have been stellar (of course!) but there's always going to be a crap review here and there.

not everyone is going to like our work, (dammit!) but you're always above the petty posts and arguments and that's what makes you classy. ;)

Anonymous said...

What a great way to put it: "our creation is their consumable good". I think that's a good thing to keep in mind when our books hit the shelves. It's never easy when someone complains because that "consumable good" didn't meet their expectations. But if something valuable is learned, as in your case, it can hopefully ease the sting a bit. :)

Donna Cummings

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