I wasn’t going to post again this week, but over the weekend, I saw a post in one of my Facebook writing groups and wanted to talk about it.
In the post, a writer was lamenting about all the four star reviews their book was getting. Upon further investigation, not only did this author have several reviews, very few of them were less than five stars.
After lamenting, they proceeded to ask for advice on how they could become a better writer and write a book so good it will only get five stars from everyone who reads it. They were so upset about it that they were close to giving up writing entirely. They said something to the effect of, “If I can’t be great at this, then why I am wasting my time.” They also said a very heartbreaking thing about a C average in high school would have gotten them grounded. Never mind that writing isn’t math class, and if anyone was going to give this person a grade, it would clearly be an A.
This kind of perfectionist mentality when it comes to anything is damaging. No author anywhere in the world has control over how people will react, and all books, like any art anywhere, are so subjective.
The comment section was split about three ways. In one group, there were people who were offering this author writing advice. Things they could do to improve and feel better. On another side, there were people who were baffled. One, because this author doesn’t seem to understand that books are subjective. And two, because said reviews were all really good. People were buying this person’s book and loving it! On the last side were the people who are in the same camp I am, and they very gently told the writer that they need a change in mindset.
Honestly, this post was equal parts heartbreaking and frustrating. I don’t personally know a single author anywhere, indie or otherwise, who wouldn’t be over the moon to have that many reviews on their debut book. I don’t know anyone who would ever complain about a four star review. And most of us would never complain about any of them. I don’t even complain about the reviews that never get written. I still don’t write a review for everything I read. I try to leave reviews for anything with less than 100, but it still slips my mind on the regular, and I’m not even that busy.
I totally understand a perfectionist mentality, because I used to have one about a number of things. And the people saying that a mindset shift is in order are all totally right. And when I stopped beating myself up all the time, I stopped feeling like crap all the time. It’s not magic.
I didn’t comment on the post because everything had already been said, and it was a day later when I saw it, but I was just wondering what other people thought. I just kind of feel like we have to want something bad enough to do it for ourselves. Sure it’s great to get a glowing five star review, but if my self-esteem is built on praise, I’m going to be in trouble, mentally, when I don’t get it. If someone is trying to write a book that other people will always give five stars to, not only will that never happen, unless only ten people ever read it, they’ll also always feel like a failure.
And while so many people were trying to help this writer, nothing will change for them unless they actually want to change. Unless they can actually get over the fact that they’re not perfect and nothing is. I still remember the year I realized I didn’t have to write a perfect book, and that it was, in fact, impossible. It was summer 2012, and I felt so relieved. All this weight crumbled off my shoulders. It’s freedom. If you don’t have to be perfect, then you can be yourself. 🙂
Anyway, if you want to wish HOUSE OF FALLING EMBERS a happy book birthday, it came out Monday, and the post is HERE. Also, if you read it, or anything I’ve written, leave a review. Even if you hate it. 😉