Bad Reviews

February 26, 2016

Let’s get this out of the way right now. If you create anything – anything at all – someone’s not going to like it. As sure as the sun rises in the east and all the other cliché’s you can think of, no matter what you do – someone is going to hate it.

And that’s Ok.

I didn’t say it’s easy to take, I just said that’s ok. You don’t have to like it; you just have to understand that it’s going to happen.

Of course, you can limit the amount it happens pretty easily.

How, you ask?

Just don’t show anything you create to anyone.

Ever.

I’m not kidding. Let’s say you’re a writer. If you don’t think you can take a bad review of something you’ve written, don’t show it to anyone. Lock it up in a safety deposit box like J.D. Salinger is reported to have done. No views equals no reviews, which in turn equals no bad reviews, right? There’s just the little catch that anyone who might actually love what you’ve done would never get a chance to see it.

I’m an author and when I received my first bad review it felt like someone punched me in the chest. A small part of it was that I was insulted, but the bigger part was that I felt as if I had been caught trying to pass myself off as a writer (a feeling most writers are familiar with). Someone was calling me out. They had read the drivel I poured on the page and saw that I was faking my way through the whole thing. I had spent thousands of hours writing and editing and re-writing my novel, but it still wasn’t good enough. Forget about the other people who said they loved it and couldn’t wait for the next book, all I obsessed about was the fact that one person didn’t like it.

Surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to stop caring about the bad review, though. I sat back and thought about it for a couple of days before looking at ratings on Goodreads that I had given some of the books I’ve read. In particular I saw the review of the most famous novel written by the aforementioned Mr. Salinger. I’ll probably get emails about this, but I HATED that book – or as much of it as I read. I’ve tried to read it three times and even borrowed the audiobook, but I have never been able to get past the first half. Maybe when I had a rebellious streak in my early teens I would have possibly related to it, but not so much now since I’m more likely to be heard yelling ‘Get off my Lawn’ when teenagers walk by.

Anyway, the point is that if I am allowed to dislike a ‘classic’ novel like Catcher in the Rye, why should I get upset if someone doesn’t like my novel? I mean, it still doesn’t feel great when someone compares your writing to that of a blind chimpanzee throwing feces at a typewriter from 20 paces, but no matter how they say it, you can’t deny that they didn’t like it. (No one made that comparison, by the way, but sometimes people can be a little over zealous with their bad reviews.)

Not everyone likes the same things, and that’s ok. Of course, the more people that agree something is good the better it will do, as in the case of the Harry Potter series. If you want to see proof of what I’m saying, go to Goodreads and check out some of the bad reviews of the HP books. Personally, I enjoyed the series, but there are a lot of people who loathed them. Just because some people didn’t like them doesn’t make them terrible, and just because someone doesn’t like what you’ve done doesn’t make it terrible either.

The fact that you’ve completed something and are brave enough to release it to into the wider world is an achievement few ever accomplish. Don’t worry if it doesn’t get ALL rave reviews, it will most likely get SOME, and if a few people like it, that’s all you should need.

I’m guessing that million dollars in royalties would make bad reviews a little easier to take too, so I’ll have to ask J.K. Rowling the next time I see her wandering around the middle of Canada.

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