Post Title: Trust Your Gifting
Coping with Reviews
It’s always wonderful to receive a stellar review. But what happens when a writer comes across a low review or even more than one on a book they poured their heart into?
About a year or so, I received a spate of negative reviews on my Cane Confessions memoir. They were worded as if to wound. Well, if not, they did. I honestly wanted to pull my book off the shelf and throw it into my drawer. Within a three-month span these incisive, cutting reviews left my ego in shreds. My rights had recently reverted back to me, and I could have hidden them away. Because it wasn’t just one reviewer who criticized it, I thought perhaps it might be as flawed as they said.
The criticisms ranged from why it was ever chosen for publication by the small press, that usually puts out strong, compelling memoirs to a misleading title, to my story endings (same ol’ same ol’ optimistic ending) to my writing style and even to my message. But the small press only published books they believe in. So did they make a mistake or was the reviewer being snide?
Sorting Through my Feelings
I shared one particular awful review with the head of my critique group, who vehemently disagreed with it. He said not everyone was going to like my book, but not to let that deter me from writing. It sounded so logical. But the words in the review still paralyzed my pen. So I showed it to my main editor, who said, “What others think of me is none of my business,” a kind way of telling me not to pay attention to it. I confided in another member of my critique group, who is also an editor. She read the review carefully, looked at my other reviews and debunked the review, telling me to disregard it. But I couldn’t let it go. I looked for the email of my first ever editor through my writing course—and to my utter shock, came across her obituary. That wonderful and insightful woman had died in a private plane crash a year or so earlier! So more grief came into the mix. Finally, I showed my review to one last editor who I had no history with. She checked out my other reviews and said to keep moving forward.
Changing my Focus
Despite all this support, I still wanted to stop writing. But I didn’t. Instead, I changed my focus. I wrote two short eBooks. And now I have my most of my confidence back and am writing a regular-length memoir, Second Sight: Milestones in Mobility. It is a well-thought-out book with different stories over the past decade that remain with me. Each shows some kind of growth in my journey with my white cane, reflects my personality and outlook. Like in my other memoirs I am transparent. As with coming to terms with any kind of life-altering diagnosis, sometimes I take it in stride and sometimes I lose ground but do regain firmer footing. I don’t think growth or acceptance is a linear journey for anyone. Life is full of zigzags. My hope is that my honesty will draw readers at all stages of vision loss in. People will be able to relate without judging me.
Trusting My Message
I think unlike novels where readers can dislike characters, memoirs can leave an author more vulnerable because the reader is judging the author as both a writer and a character.
The output of my stories may be optimistic but I seek the positive throughout my life situations, and I cultivate a positive mindset. So, it’s an authentic take-away. Gratitude and my faith help me to see the positive. Problems don’t disappear because I’m a Christian, and I don’t gloss over them. But the message I have for my readers is that whatever we go through in the sight loss journey—whether we feel angry, impatient, overwhelmed, alarmed, frightened or see the quirky humor, we can learn something from it and move forward.
As I grow as a writer, I will continue to refine my writing style and skills. I take self-development courses, but my writing is definitely publishable. As long as I am growing as a writer, I have to trust myself.
I have to trust the process of reaching my message, and then the message itself. My role is to make sure it’s authentic even if the ending comes across as too predictable. It’s how I get there that makes my story unpredictable. I have to trust my storytelling skills. I have to trust my unique voice. I have to trust my critique partners and my editor. I have to trust my beta readers. And I have to trust my other reviewers, those who gain insights from my writing—who feel less alone. I have to believe I am providing a quality set of resources born from my own experiences.
In short, I have to trust and believe in myself.
I want others who struggle with using a white cane to know life is as rich as we make it. Life is not over because we don’t have the same sight we used to have or that others have. I want readers to know our attitudes can change our outlook.
Although I am losing my sight, God still gave me vision and gifts to share it. I’m a teacher. So I teach. I’m a writer. So I use the medium of writing to express my message. I’m a Christian so I share the faith behind my optimism.
That’s my motivation. Pure and simple.
Share Your Thoughts…
How have others chipped away at your confidence level? How have you regained it and what do you do to keep yourself strong? Please share your thoughts in the Comments below.