Negative feedback in your life? Let thy mantra be, ouch, and then, oh, well, and then, what can I learn from this?, listening is vital, and then, let go of the rest.
Yesterday, I read some pretty negative reviews of my first book, Things I would like to do with You, for the first time.
It’s a vulnerable experience, being harshed on in public. Maybe you’ve gone through it.
While I’m used to criticism, from years of running Elephant (we write on abortion rights, elections, equity, controversial issues around relationships, sexuality…every controversial issue ever, someone in our community will write about, we’ll share it, and historically, I often dealt with the angriest comments on social media).
But I’d never really read reviews of my book, though I’m heard from frankly countless enthusiastic individuals. It’s been a sweet, wholesome experience, writing and editing and publishing my first book, eco-responsibly, and seeing it helpful and selling well to many.
But I’ve been my own critic, while writing it, while editing it, and after publishing it. Nothing makes a writer embarrassed like the act of reading one’s own words, after publication, when they are set in stone (paper and ink) and out there for all the public to see, hopefully, but also see, critically.
Beyond being a critic of my writing, my writing reflects who I am, and was, and will be, as I grow up. It also reflects the Buddhist teachings on growing up, and relationship, and all that has given me a precious chance to review my own being, my own self, and be critical, in a kind or fair way.
This first book, Things I would like to do with You, continues to sell well, steadily, as its basis is rather timeless subjects of love, relationships, commitment, loneliness, and a Buddhist approach to communication and growing up. We continue to reprint, making it ever more eco with each printing (the latest edition won’t even use ink, which is toxic petroleum, or veggie inks, which isn’t much better, but rather algae “ink,” that sucks carbon up in the process of coming to being. Beyond eco, and plastic-free, we plant trees with the printing, and we (and you, if you buy it) support local—employ local printers, doing our small part to maintain what little is left of the Amazon-etc.-gutted middle class.
Yesterday, in searching for a quote from the book to add to this post on Instagram…
“Love is the hardest sport. Love is only available to those willing to be continually brave in weakness.” ~ Things I would like to do with You.
…I came across a site called Good Reads, that hosts quotes, and reviews, of books.
While the average score on the book is nearly 5 out of 5, Good Reads, like Yelp or Glass Door, features mostly awful reviews at the top. Some of these sites make money pushing for negative reviews, and pushing negative reviews up.
It’s gross—and a disservice to honest, uplifted, helpful criticism, a craft that as a journalist I’ve aimed to practice many times.
In any case, some of the reviews are enthusiastically rude, and lengthy in their take downs. I can see the satisfaction in taking the piss out of love, love, love and sweetness and me, a white male doing the sweetness, down. That’s fine. I relish the same when it comes to, say, hating on cliche or Hallmark-type Christmas Movies (but I repeat myself).
Well, criticism is good for me, and you, and should be welcomed. Sweetness can be saccharine, and maybe I’m the toxic pile of garbage that some of the reviews painted me as, but, but…the reviews, good and bad, left me with a feeling of openness, and vulnerability, and isn’t that what that quote was about, after all?
So there I go. Yes, it’s printed eco, and locally, unlike 99.99 percent of modern books, and you won’t find it on Amazon. Yes, it’s expensive, but so are many books that are toxic (like me..!) and printed overseas and coated in plastic.
And yes, you’ll find it at Elephant, and we ship them plastic-free, and with love, and we pay our team properly, and I’m rather openly proud of our team, who aren’t a bunch of sycophants as one review posited. In fact, they argue with me every day and show me very little respect.
And if you’d like to read the kind reviews, and the critical ones, and the troll ones, all, check out GoodReads…which, yeah, is owned by…Amazon.