As a younger, greenstick author, I got caught up in reading reviews of my book all the time. Authorship is nerve-racking, as we launch our work in the public sphere and hope it floats. As part of that process, we wait and watch, notice what happens, and naturally hope that our work fares well. But now, I see, I was also waiting for the punishing crit, which has – thankfully – not materialised. If it had, it would have demolished me inside, left me a crumbling, doubting wreck. So why did I go looking? Are authors naturally masochistic?
I think we scout around reviews and such, in part because we crave reassurance that the story we have told, carved from the huge granite block of our experiences, views and fantasies is the right one, that it hits a right spot, conveys at least something of what we want it to. (In that way, we don’t need crits, because we are only too aware of the faults in our work, the paths we might have trod, the words we didn’t say….)
In the internet age, it is seen as part of our on-line engagement, to look at reviews, comment, thank, and generally spread the word. But, suspecting that a habit of scanning the on-line horizon for signs of trouble is rarely a way to read anything good, and that doing so can become an endless preoccupation, I rarely read reviews now, and seldom comment directly. Faced with real, hard, time-to-grow-up challenges lately, I haven’t time to think, either, about what people might write or say about what I have said and written, though I try to write honestly, and to comment sincerely.
I recognise that a less than flattering review is part of the legitimacy we seek for our work, our authorship. In some way, seeing the whole range of views given, is a compliment of sorts, anchoring our determination firmly in the public sphere and strengthening our resolve to accept whatever comes along. If we doubt this, we might wonder, are we frightened to let our work speak for itself?