“Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.”
I’ve heard this quote from a few different places so I don’t know where it originates from, but it doesn’t matter. I have been leaning on it for several years and specifically, the past few weeks.
I’m well aware how the Internet brings out the worst in people. I’ve been on Twitter far longer than most people — hello 2008. And I’ve been writing online for years, but never paid much attention to the comments section of articles (mostly trolls!). Save for a few brutal gut punches over the years, I’ve dealt very little with criticism of my writing or myself in general.
Amazon and Goodreads reviews of my first book are another ball game. People who leave these reviews are not generally trolls. They are people who have actually read the book. They are readers — people that care about books and lend a critical eye to the page, much like myself!
I’d heard it from authors before — reading the reviews can be a rough ride. Several authors I have heard via podcast have said they do not read them. I was prepared to do the same, but when the first ones rolled in, I found myself itching to scroll down the page.
Then I hit one particularly mean-spirited review. In truth, it made little sense, the criticism drenched in a somewhat irrational perspective of my book, focusing in on something that was such a small part of it, I knew the majority of readers wouldn’t be fixated on that at all.
But you know how it goes. The one bad review stood glaring out in my mind amid the 10 positive ones sidled up right next to it. This was the first day of sales (and this reviewer had received an early copy). The harsh words made me feel so upset that I decided then and there that I would not read any more reviews — and I haven’t read a single one since, despite checking to see if new ones come in.
They trickle in daily and I continue to ask and encourage people to write them (I need those because it helps other people find the book on Amazon and Goodreads!) — but other people’s opinion of me if none of my business.
I wrote a book. I got it published. I told a story that was worth telling. I never believed I’d see my name on a hardback cover on a shelf at Barnes and Noble, but here we are. My book launch team leader, Anna LeBaron (read her book!), reminded me that a book that has only 4-star reviews is suspicious. Honest reviews and a good book will reap a variety of opinions. If you say anything worth saying, there will be pushback. Not everyone is required to like me or my writing.
It has been a positive exercise to recognize and believe these things.
There are some real typos in the text of the finished product. There are a couple of things I might have said differently at this point. I wish sometimes I’d had more people read drafts first (but do you know how hard it is to ask someone to read the first draft of your book? People don’t have time to do that kind of favor!) I could have spent years making it a better book. But done is better than perfect. Published is better than a Microsoft Word doc with an impeccable sentence that no one will ever read.
The book is done. The story is told. The miracle happened.
I’ve learned plenty from this process. I’ll know a lot more next time. And I know there’s a lot more 4-star reviews than 2-star reviews. But even if there weren’t, that’s not why I wrote it and it wouldn’t make the story less beautiful.
So, other people’s opinion of me and my writing right now isn’t any of my business. I didn’t do it for them. I wrote it for Rick. I wrote it for me. I wrote it for the person who picks it up and recognizes themselves in the pages…and maybe just maybe finds that little bit of hope they thought didn’t exist.
Now that I’ve gone over a month without reading reviews, it’s pretty easy to keep doing it — and I know I’m better for it. My worth is not found in the words of others, but in the eyes of God and those that love me most. And that’s why I don’t read reviews.