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 Amazon.com. 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.
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.