We’ve all heard the phrase.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
And we can surely all agree that this is a load of bullhonkey.
Words can hurt. They can belittle, bruise, burn and beat us down. And today, I discovered a whole new world of pain that words can deliver:
Yes, the humble review, written by amateurs and professionals alike, aimed at books, films, plays and all manner of things. I’ve read plenty of them in the past; I’ve written a few, too.
But never before have I been in the vulnerable position of being the author of the work being scrutinised.
As some of you may recall, I recently won the Romance Writing competition run by Random House Publishing and Take 5 magazine. Awesome, right? Heck yes. For a writer like me, who is pitifully trying to crawl her way into the spotlight, the recognition offered by this win was tremendous. Of most significance was the exposure that my short story received. Currently, it is available for free download on numerous sites, including Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and so forth. People all around the world now have access to my story.
Thus, people all around the world now have the chance to review said story.
I’m not shy about sharing my work. Comments, cheers, criticisms — this is how I learn and grow. I wouldn’t have a blog if I was afraid of being reviewed. But you see, for the most part, the blogosphere is a lovely place to share one’s work. You readers are kind and supportive, encouraging my triumphs and gently pointing out areas to improve on, because you are generally in the anxious position of please treat me the way I have treated you.
But when you slap your work all around cyberspace, it winds up sitting on the edge of a cliff — exposed, alone, and ripe for the picking.
The reviewers pounce.
Only today did I think to go in search of my story in its various new homes, and once I found it, but stomach did backflips and my heart rose and fell.
The reviews, dear readers. Oh, the reviews.
There was no consideration for me — the author — because these people, these reviewers and potential purchasers, don’t know me any more than they know my name. Unbiased, they ravage my tiny 1000-word offering to their heart’s content, and for me, this is quite daunting.
Some reviews were touching, and made me smile:
Some reviews… Not so much.
…Ouch, right? I felt devastated and embarrassed. I had to quickly close down the screen and go play some Candy Crush to make myself feel better…
But it got me thinking — if this is how I feel about a story of only 1000 words… How must big-time authors feel when faced with these sort of reviews about their life’s work?
Does Stephanie Meyer ever gorge herself on chocolate after yet another person makes a “Still a better love story than Twilight” joke?
Is E.L. James able to comfort herself with her piles of cash when the reviewers bring their whips out (pun totally intended)?
Could Shakespeare possibly be off crying in a corner because another high school student is lamenting over their Hamlet studies?
And the answer probably is:
Because the less-than-ideal reviews for Trash to Treasure did hurt. They did, for a moment, make me wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life, if the one thing I love doing — if the one thing I can imagine doing for the rest of my life — can be so swiftly disregarded.
But then I thought…
(pardon the language)
You can’t please everybody — that’s life.
Trash to Treasure must have pleased somebody; I wouldn’t have won if it hadn’t. And you know what? It pleased me.
Sticks and stones can break bones, and words can bloody hurt.
…But they won’t break me. Because I won’t let them.
My name is Jess. I am a writer. And I throw myself at the mercy of the reviewers.
Do. Your. Worst.
- Love The Bad Guy