I’ve been getting myself psyched up for negative reviews. Not that I’m in any way looking forward to them, but I’m a realist. I know negative reviews are a sobering reality for every author and for every other artist putting him or herself out there for others to judge. And so I’m trying to prepare myself, with the lofty goal of not dissolving into a puddle of insecurity and self-loathing when the first non-glowing reviews hit my screen.
Thanks to some very patient and encouraging friends, as well as wisdom I’ve gleaned from other writers, I think I’ll be ready. If you’re just starting out on your creative journey (or have been on this path for a while and are feeling a little beat up), hopefully these tips will help you survive the road of rejection.
Your self-worth is not tied to your creative output.
Art is extremely subjective, which means some people are going to love what you put out there, and others are going to hate it. But it’s important to remind yourself that their perception of your work is not synonymous with their perception of you as a person. Your value (as a person or even as an artist) does not depend on whether or not strangers like your art. This can be so hard to remember, especially because often we feel like our art is an intricately-woven part of us that cannot be easily separated. But in order to maintain some level of emotional health, it’s vital you make that distinction. You are not your art. (Of course, this goes for positive reviews as well. You have intrinsic value because of who you are
, and not just because someone else likes what you have produced.)
Let it ruin your breakfast, but don’t let it ruin your dinner.
I read this quote about negative reviews years ago (and can’t remember for the life of me who said it) and it seems like a good road map to me. When your work gets a negative review, don’t feel you have to deny that it hurts. It does. Feel the pain, have a good, gut-wrenching cry if you need to, and then suck it up and soldier on. At that point, once your initial emotional reaction is out of your system, you’ll be in a better place to look objectively at the criticism and decide whether to disregard it as complete rubbish or use it keep on getting better.
Read Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena.” Memorize it if you have to.
If this is the first thing you read after every negative review, you’ll have a much harder time feeling sorry for yourself. Instead, you’ll be feeling sorry for every person who isn’t as brave as you are.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt
And always remember this: illegitimi non carborundum.
Everyone has their own strategies for handling rejection — what are yours?
Jodi McIsaac is the author of
Through the Door, the first book in a new urban fantasy series inspired by Celtic mythology. Buy it now on Amazon.