As an author and creativity coach, the topic of dealing with rejection comes up over and over. Some of my clients choose to create a rejection ritual. This could include anything you want it to include, from lighting candles, reciting an affirmation you’ve prepared, reading a list of positive reviews you keep handy for just that purpose… Or your ritual can include elements to make your writing better.
A very important step is to acknowledge that not everyone loves the same things. If the writing is good and the idea unique, the reason for a negative review may simply be that the material is not something that particular reviewer enjoys.
My favorite negative review came from a librarian who was horrified that the sea-sick dinosaurs in my picture book DINOSAILORS actually puke off the side of the boat. The illustrator showed it from afar with a lovely sunset in the background. Even I was taken aback when I first saw the preliminary sketches, but I have no say over the art (that’s the editor’s job). However, I got over that almost immediately, and was validated by future readings with kids. They either burst out laughing or yell out “Ewww….!” (they love either option). My reaction to that review was to picture the librarian. In my mind, she looks just like my vision of my inner critic (imagine that!). But, mostly I look for the positive…
Here’s a list of steps to make use of the information in a negative review:
1. Give the review some breathing room, especially if the comments are overwhelming.
2. Determine which comments resonate with you and keep them in mind as you work on your next project.
3. If a comment points to a specific element of your craft, consider it a gift and use it as an opportunity to focus on learning more about that aspect.
4. Take it to your critique group or a writing partner for feedback on the validity of the review.
5. View it as an opportunity for letting go, and put your focus elsewhere.
If you feel your reaction to a negative review is too strong, you might want to ask yourself what that reaction is really about. A friend once told me “If you want to know who you are, look in a clean mirror.” Reviewers can’t define who you are unless you take in what they say. That goes for both negative and positive reviews. Once your writing is out there, it takes on a life of its own. You can’t revise it any more. You can support it in other ways, but as the parent, you send it off to begin a life of its own. Let it go…