As writers, why do we let negativity affect us so much?
Why can one negative remark stick with us, upset us, deflate us, ruin our mood or even our whole day?
Why is that we can receive dozens of compliments and not obsess over any of them, but when a stranger says something negative we let it fester?
I don’t have the answer.
But as an author who has my beloved stories “out there” for strangers to love or hate, I have developed a cardinal rule, a mantra, a declaration that every writer/artist/human should keep in mind at all times: You can’t please everyone.
You can’t. I promise you; YOU CAN’T.
Stop trying. Stop worrying about the people who don’t like what you’re doing, saying, or writing. Readers have different tastes and expectations. Over six billion people exist on this planet. That’s A LOT of opinions. Don’t focus on the people who don’t like you, your book, or whatever. They are entitled to their opinion--even if it’s negative.
Focus on the positive. Focus on what makes you happy and keep doing it. Authors, embrace each and every tweet, email, review, or comment from readers who say they loved your book. Let those comments be the ones you replay in your mind as you go to sleep each night. Focus on the positive. Brush off the negative.
Art is subjective. Life is subjective. Opinions are subjective. Books are most certainly subjective. Go read reviews of the most popular book you can think of, I assure you, there will be people who didn’t like it. It’s normal. It’s expected. It’s a given. Because it’s all subjective.
I’m reading an indie book that I adore. I think it’s brilliant. The writing is great. The concept makes my eyes light up with wonder as I read. I contacted the author and told her how much I love her story.
Her reply was: You have no idea how much this email means to me. I've had a lot of hot and a lot of cold with this book, so I never know how people will react. They seem to either love it or hate it.
I wrote her back and said pretty much the same thing I said at the beginning of this post.
She replied with this: You are so right, Karen. My skin is VERY thin. I hear only the negative and don't pay enough attention to the good. I'm working on tuning the haters out, but sometimes it's a struggle.
Oh, look at that, another human author with real feelings. Another artist who is hurt when strangers think one of her babies is ugly. Every writer has been through this struggle--or will at some point in their career. We all take the negative comments to heart--even though we shouldn’t.
Now, here’s an eye-opening fact about the above author’s book. I looked up her reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Between the two sites, her book (the one she’s had so much hot and cold with) had over one hundred twenty (120) four or five star reviews. Less than a dozen 3 star reviews, less than ten 2 stars, and less than five 1 stars. NINETY (90!) percent of people liked her book on Goodreads.
But as she admitted, she hears only the negative. Tuning out the haters is a struggle.
NINETY percent of readers liked her book. Many REALLY liked it. Many LOVED it. Some said it’s the best book they’ve read in a long time. But this brilliant author still has thin skin. As many of us do.
Why? I have no idea.
It’s one of the great mysteries of the world.
Maybe it’s because we put so much heart, soul, and passion into our writing. When someone says our heart, soul, and passion is crap; it hurts like hell.
I know. I get it. I’ve been there. I still occasionally read a negative review and reach for a cocktail to help me cope, but then I remember my number one rule. I repeat my mantra.
I can’t please everyone.
Then I reread fan mail and positive reviews, and focus on the proof that many people out there DO love my work. Those readers make this crazy roller coaster ride of writing the best and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Haters and all.
Karen Hooper writes young adult paranormal and fantasy, and is the author of TANGLED TIDES and GRASPING AT ETERNITY. She is currently sunning and splashing around Florida with her two beloved dogs. Some of her addictions include coffee, chocolate and complicated happily-ever-afters.