I don’t know about you, but taking criticism is not something I’ve ever found easy. Unfortunately, as I write novels for a living, it comes with the terrain. Moreover, the more successful a book is, the more negativity there is to deal with. Just because a book is a best seller doesn’t mean everyone’s going to love it - or such was my experience with One Moment, One Morning anyway; almost overnight I found myself having to deal with dozens of negative reviews online.
A Positive Spin
When you’ve spent months of your life on a project that’s close to your heart, to have someone dismiss it in a sentence or two can cut to the quick. And from chats I’ve had with fellow scribes, I know plenty of authors who feel the same.
However many 5* reviews on Amazon my novels receive, until relatively recently the 1* reviews continued to upset me, so I thought I’d share an insight that is now helping me cope with negative feedback better. As I said in my previous blog, I short while ago I did a course in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) as part of my research for Another Night, Another Day. One day the guy running the class gave us a simple exercise.
It All Comes Down to Lemons
‘I want you to picture yourself taking a lemon, putting it on a chopping board, and slicing into it with a knife,’ he said.
I closed my eyes and did so. Then he asked each of us to describe what we’d imagined.
‘I took my lemon from the ceramic fruit bowl in our kitchen, and sliced it with a knife I picked from a magnetised strip on our wall,’ I said.
‘And the board?’ he asked.
‘Wooden and worn,’ I explained.
‘My board was melamine,’ said the woman next to me.
‘Mine was glass,’ said the man opposite.
Someone else was slicing lemon to make a Gin and Tonic, and so it went on.
Everyone has a unique perspective
The exercise illustrated how we each bring our own experiences to bear on someone else’s words. As a writer, it enabled me to see that every sentence has as many different interpretations as it does readers, which goes some way to explaining how one person’s 5* book is another’s 1*. There is no way I can control these responses – to try is as futile as trying to control someone’s thoughts.
I find understanding that criticism isn’t personal to recipient, but comes from the personal perspective of the critic helps distance me from the harshness of words. So next time you feel wounded by an acid remark, remember we each see slicing lemons differently. Or, to put it another way, not everything can be everyone’s G&T.
If you're interested in reading more of Sarah's blogs, she also writes for Psychology Today, and you can find her articles here.