From posting your child’s graduation picture on Facebook, to sharing a business win on LinkedIn, there will be backlash. Whatever the reason, social media invites negativity. Thoughtless commentary and hurtful, snarky remarks go hand in hand with stepping into the social media space.
Now, imagine this from the author’s perspective.
Readers are very interested in “seeing” you, hearing you, and learning more about the person behind the book. Therefore, authors are encouraged to post pictures of themselves, their books, their daily lives, etc. I know that I enjoy learning more about my fellow readers and authors, it’s a great way to connect with people on common ground and well, find your peeps. Unfortunately, when you put yourself out there, it opens the door to that negative space.
The same can be said for your books.
Sure, they won’t appeal to everyone. Maybe only to small niche, but that’s your space and it should be a happy space not a negative one. Bad reviews, criticism, and lacerating words sting. It’s a tough space to be in and I’m learning quickly that authors need to be incredibly resilient to survive in this industry. Long before I experienced negative feedback about me or my books, I sought advice from other authors (including best-sellers). I wondered how they dealt with the bad reviews and cutting words. While each of them had their own unique way of navigating this space, they all shared one common pearl of wisdom. They’re reacting to their own pain so don’t take it personally.
Easier said than done.
So why does this happen? I think we know the answer to this question. Why do we lash out at anyone? Fill in the blank and you’ve got the answer. We’re all guilty of saying hurtful things because we’re hurting. Diverting it somewhere else is not healthy but we do it anyway. After all, we’re human.
But I’m going to divert to a more pleasant perspective—constructive feedback. While some of the unkind words aren’t worth your or my time, when you step into this negative space, you can find gold. Constructive feedback is incredibly helpful to all authors. Maybe you discover something you can do differently with a plot, your protagonist’s dialogue, your website, book cover, author platform, or even a forgotten sub-character that needs more attention.
But don’t just take my word for it. My fellow authors offer great advice for handling rejection:
Willingly accept constructive feedback, it’s not personal. Believe in your project, not everyone will appreciate it. Never give up! (Such a cliché, but it’s true.) I like to say, “Embrace failure, learn, grow.” ~ Donald O’Connor, author of the Failing Spectacularly series of short story books.
As a former coach, I tried to keep kids even. Not get too high, not get too low. Because if you are high, the only place you can go is lower. Stay even. Stephen King says it bluntly: If you write, someone will make you feel bad. The key, I think, is to write as honestly and as sincerely as you can, and only for yourself. If you do that, as long as you are happy, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. There will always be those who will like it and those who don’t. If you stay even, you will never get too high or too low, and if you like it, it’s all that matters. ~ Joseph Lewis, best-selling and award-winning author of The Lives Trilogy.
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default. ~ J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter Empire
Gold isn’t laying around in daisy covered fields, just waiting to be harvested.
You must mine for it, get your hands dirty, and dig through a lot of rocks. Stepping into the negative space boasts a similar experience. There’s wisdom within, just steel yourself for the experience then dive in.
Stay strong fellow authors.
3 responses to “Stepping Into the Negative Space”
Nicely done! Thanks for including me!
Joseph, I’m so honored to be able to share your wisdom. An author of your caliber who’s willing to share is a gift. Thank you!
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