karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

Writers' insecurities

This morning's Washington Post has an essay in the Book World section by writer Chris Bohjalian about how and why he obsesses over reviews of his books on Amazon. The essay is part of The Writing life, a recurring feature of Book World that's often interesting because it's a forum for writers to talk about some aspect of being a writer.

This time it's about the compulsion to read reader-written reviews, a standard features on Amazon. The thing is, I've read reviews of books I absolutely loved, and out of 10 or so, there will invariably be one or two people who hated the book I thought was brilliant.

Bohjalian illustrates his essay with some examples (all full of incorrect spelling and often bad grammar and punctuation) of negative reviews of his books. Then he has a few paragraphs about his reaction to them:

"It only takes one thorn like that in a rosebush of 30 or 40 flowers to leave me bleeding and wounded and thinking to myself, "Wow. You really aren't very good, are you? You're certainly not good . . . enough." Am I thin-skinned?

Perhaps. Vulnerability and creativity don't always go hand-in-hand, but often they do."

Yes, but in order to get published, you have to risk total rejection. You have to let people read your work and say yes, they want to buy it or no they don't want it. It takes a lot of self-confidence to do that.

Bohjalian also notes, "I confess that I put more stock in the opinion of the novelist who questions whether an ending in one of my books is fully earned in a Washington Post or New York Times review than I do in "Bic Parker" at Amazon, who wrote about one of my novels, "Stoopid." And yet Bic Parker's vote counts. It affects both book sales and, yes, my self-esteem."

But, the "who" of it aside, a basic point is, there is almost nothing under the sun that someone doesn't like. I even know people who don't like chocolate. Tastes vary. You can't win 'em all, and if you think you can, then you've got bigger problems than a little insecurity.

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Tags: writers

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