Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hurts So Good

This year has been one of several “firsts” for me. My first request for a full manuscript. My first contract. My first book release. And my first negative review.

Ouch. The reader didn’t like my characters and isn’t sure she will read anything else by me. After wondering if maybe I had stolen her lunchbox on the playground when we were younger, I quickly did what any person would do…I became defensive. And then I started doubting my writing ability and questioning how I could have made the characters and the story better. Regardless that three other people had reviewed and really liked the book, I allowed the one negative comment to kick my confidence and joy of writing out from under me.

Now this self-doubt only lasted a few moments, but I was reminded of something that stayed with me much longer. Count it all joy. Everything—the good, the bad and the ugly—has purpose. The positive and the negative comments make me a stronger and more prolific writer. Both sharpen me—one just feels better than the other! But the negative accomplishes something the positive cannot. It reveals where I am. The bible cautions beware if all men speak well of you. I’ve always viewed that verse in a certain way. Now, as I’m experiencing these “firsts”, my eyes are opened to another aspect of it. If men only spoke good of us, how would we know we are strong enough to handle criticism? Would we be shipwrecked on the shores of self-doubt never able to find the courage or esteem to set sail once more? How would we discover whether our identity and joy is based on something more than our jobs? How would we find out that in the face of adversity we have the fortitude and strength to press forward? Yes, accolades uplift us, but it’s the disappointments that challenge us to rise in the first place.


M.V.Freeman said...

Excellent Post Naima,

First, that is very difficult to deal with a review like that. I am quite impressed you recognized it for what it was. This is only the beginning of great things for you.

Second, our dark voices, those negative sirens that work against us are the death knell to any new writer or seasoned. I agree, it is how we deal with our dissapointments, and press on that show us who we are and what we are made of.

To paraprase an awe inspiring man- Randy Pausch who spoke before his death, said something along the lines of: The brick wall is there not keep you out but to turn away everyone who gives up. (basically, he said it better)

Jeanie said...

Ooh, criticism hurts. I don't know about you, but I always remember my mistakes, but seldom the things that I do right! Likewise, it's easy to get sideswiped by negative comments on our writing and forget about the positive. Writing is tough and not for sissies. As much as it hurts, I try to learn from criticism and use it to improve my writing. But you can't dwell on it either, or it will paralyze you. Neither can you twist and bend to suit everybody or you will lose your voice.

Hey, you can't please all of the people all the time, and there's always going to be someone who doesn't like your work. Just remember it's just another person's opinion and shake it off.

Naima Simone said...

Hi Mary and Jeanie! Mary, I love that quote! And how you paraphrased it! LOL! It's the truth! And no, this business is not for sissies!! But, I love it anyway! LOL! I'm learning that both propel me to strive to be a better writer.

Christine said...

Naima--you have the right attitude! And if everyone loved us, we wouldn't know what really mattered to us and what was important: love, faith, joy. Know it all.

Embrace all your positive firsts!

See you on Saturday.

Louisa Cornell said...

Naima, everything in our lives has a place. We tend to put things away in containers based on how important we think they are and how much we need them. Our instinct is to put those negative reviews in a big glass frame in the living room where we can see them every day. That is NOT where those sorts of things belong. Remember that raggedy shoe box in the back of the closet where you put those tax papers from 20 years ago - JUST IN CASE? THAT is where those negative reviews belong. You will probably never need that negative review again, but if you think you want to keep it, put it in that shoebox. After a while you will discover you don't need it at all and then you can throw it in the trash!

I think it is a measure of our growth as human beings when we learn which things to put in the pretty containers, the pretty frames, the bedside table and which things to store in the back of the closet. You can always use the ten year rule. Is it going to matter in then years? No? Then the heck with it !! I try to learn from everything that happens in my life, but once I have learned what I need to from something I put it away and if I won't ever need that bit of knowledge again I throw it away!

Louisa Cornell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Naima Simone said...

Hi, Christine!
You're definitely right on target. And, I appreciate and value all 3 of those!! Thank you for the reminder. See you Saturday!!

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Louisa!
It's so funny you should mention that in 10 years it won't matter. My father said almost the exact same thing to me. He said you're a new author now, so every single comment, review or opinion affects you. But 5 years from now, he said, this will be a memory. This too shall pass and it won't matter because you'll have too many books under your belt! And since he's a pastor, I'm accepting and receiving his words! LOL!

But, he's right. With writing, or anything in life, what seems so important now won't be a year, two, five or ten from now. So, in this moment I'm learning to embrace it all--the good and the bad. Because every writer has to face it and it's all part and parcel of the journey. Thank you so much for your words. They are truly words of wisdom and experience.

Christine said...

Lousia, I love the ten year rule. I was just telling the teens in my carpool about something similar regarding their grades and so on. I know they need to do well, but in 10 years, one missed vocab test isn't going to matter.

But the memories they are making will matter.

I am so excited for the readers luncheon. I can't wait to see you all!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Nicely put, Naima. As writers we put so much of ourselves into our work, that an attack on our work is like a personal attack on us.

You're handling it really well, and I'm sure it's a lesson we could all use. Thanks!

Naima Simone said...

Thanks, Gwen! It takes courage to enter contests, too, as you should know well! Congratulations again on your win!!