In retreat

In my last blog post (here), I mentioned what a sense of respite and control writing gave me “At those times when I feel I have less control over what happens in my life, thanks at the moment to a rocky work situation..” Well hello karma, because writing suddenly started feeling less of a release several days ago!

Last Thursday I noticed my most recent book, a novella, had gained itself a one-star review on Evidently, that particular reviewer couldn’t finish it because there was ‘too much going on and so much of it did not make sense.’ Despite admitting they did not read the description closely enough before selection, the book left ‘a lot to be desired.’ I then found someone on Goodreads (I think a different person), also bestowed a one-star review, but with no explanatory words at whatsoever. On Goodreads, this score evidently means a simple “I didn’t like it”, which is fair enough, though it looks pretty stark. So – un-finishable, nonsensical, dislikeable. Ouch. Also, within the meagre number of reviews I gather, these reviews brought the average for this work down to hopeless (i.e. below the magic four needed to look ‘saleable’). Double ouch.

There are other, more favourable reviews of this and other books, but you know how it is: the negative is the one you focus on, criticism having more impact than praise. There’s a theory this is a predisposition with an evolutionary basis—our brains exhibit a neurological bias to place more emphasis on negative stimuli, to help us, as humans, learn from hazardous and threatening experiences as rapidly as possible. Whatever the reason for the tendency, I read somewhere that, at least in relationships, it takes over five positive comments to cancel the effects on one negative one (which doesn’t seem that much to me).

Anyway, it’s almost inevitable, of course. If you ‘put yourself out there’ with your work, not everyone is going to like your stuff. Yes, it’s highly subjective. And not everyone is going to ‘play nicely’—though really, why should they? After all, reviews are for other readers, primarily, not for the author.

The above account (though potted) makes me sound more upset than I was. In fact, felt oddly resigned. Because of the near inevitability of getting scalding feedback at some point, perhaps, and also because I never expect to make financial profit from writing. Besides, there’s always something that can be learnt from negative comment.

More than that though, for the past several days I have been camping, in deep countryside without wifi. All round, a healthy thing, much needed. I went up to join my children, who were already ensconced at the campsite. I rushed up dying to see them, bearing a huge bag of everything they’d forgotten to take (their dad packed with them. I had left a packing list but… Look, I’ll leave it there before I say something sexist); however, the offspring have arrived at an age when they no longer jump into my arms.

Simple pleasures

Still, they were glad to see me. In their own way. And it was exquisite, the massed cool greens of the countryside, the quenching clearness of the air, lying suspended on the air mattress under brighter stars, next to my beautiful daughter, breathing her in. All the simple pleasures that become more intense. The time spent with them. Much perspective was restored.

Well. A rubbishy year at work; writing not going well. Maybe, just perhaps, with effort, parenthood is something I can be good at. Sometimes. Just don’t ask my pre-teen to give a review!

Astro, Felix Mittermeier
Fire, Adonyi, G.

18 thoughts on “In retreat

  1. 🙂 Well Librepaley I enjoy reading your stories (especially when they give me a hard on ❤ )


    1. That’s very reassuring 🙂 It’s a genre that people can sometimes over-think – I think!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I struggle with criticism too.

    One thing I noticed though…so many people who like things don’t tell you. There are many lurkers.

    What if a lot of people loved your story and meant to review or comment but couldn’t find the time, the confidence to do it online, or simply didn’t think of it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I rarely used to review myself – and have flagged in my reviews lately. New year’s resolution is to start back up again in force (my personal new year being September). Thank you for taking time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ouch indeed. Been there.


  4. there are all kinds of readers out there. I once got a 2 star review because the reader wanted my main character to stay in an abusive relationship. Go figure.
    I never rate a book below 3 stars. If I don’t like it, I simply don’t read it, if I don’t read it, I don’t rate it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s pretty much my approach too, three stars is about the lowest or I’ve decided a book’s simply ‘not for me’. It’s hard to get my head around leaving one star for an unfinished book, but then that’s my own egotism, i.e. surprised if others don’t behave as I do – it’s not necessarily a ‘wrong’ thing to do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m part of the goodreads community, you’d be surprised to see all those negative reviews for reasons that don’t really make any sense. But, reading is a matter of taste, and everyone has a different one.


  5. Critics write reviews because they can’t write. Period. Bad reviews must be a blow. But, focus on the camping. That must have been nice. Chin up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nothing like the great outdoors for perspective!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True. I tend to forget that, living in an urban environment (20 millions and counting). Sometimes I’d like to step out through and walk the woods of Normandy or Shropshire just to look at the trees (same trees), smell the woods, hear a bird or two. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s a megalopolis! I have lived in cities, but nothing like so huge. Love Normandy, its rolling green and gentle charm.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. When you take the train form France to England (and back) once you emerge, the countryside is just the same. Trees, foliage. Only the houses change. yes, Mexico city is a monster. It takes an hour to have lunch with one of our daughters, and back. Same for her of course, and she lives relatively close by. 🙂


            1. It’s hard to imagine life in a megalopolis like Mexico City – it must be vibrant and varied, but being denied easy access to countryside would be hard.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. There is some variety, but to me it is mostly long traffic which I abhor and try to avoid as much as possible. And to go to any “countryside” is just a long way in car. 🙂
                I may eventually retire in Shropshire… 😉 Nice yellow cheese over there, I understand.


  6. Your peaceful vacation seems to have left you with a very positive way of viewing things! Glad you enjoyed your vacation 🙂 I am inspired by your ability to brush off the negative criticism.


    1. Thank you for reading. I am afraid I don’t find processing negative review easy, but it has to be done!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the thought that writing helps you to control your life – 5 good deeds to erase one negative one in relationships I will remember that. And I am sure your novella will do well – 5 positive comments coming your way to remove that one negative one


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