Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rebutting a Flaming Review

How do you handle criticism? As writers, we open ourselves up for it. We labor over some of the decisions we make with our writing, from what our characters like to the theme of our books to whether to self-publish or traditionally publish. It is all open to scrutiny and every writer has his share of praise and criticism. We love the praise, but the criticism is hard to take.

It might be better if we don’t handle criticism the way reports Alice Hoffman reacted to a less than ideal review. Allegedly, she chose to respond by Tweeting the reviewer’s phone number and e-mail address, encouraging her fans to respond to the review. I can think of worse things she could have done, but the word for this is vengeance. She later apologized. I’m sure most of us have looked at something someone said or did that we didn’t like and thought, “I’m going to make him pay. He’ll regret he ever did that.” If I were to guess, that is what I believe must have been going through Alice Hoffman’s mind. So, how should we respond to criticism?

It is better not to respond than to respond in with vengeance. We might tell ourselves that we can make the other person regret his words, but vengeance only gives him more proof that we aren’t the great people we would like people to think we are. In many cases, we don’t have to respond. So, the other person doesn’t like our work. Yeah, maybe his readers aren’t going to come flocking to our door, but it really isn’t that big of a deal until we make it one. The critic has probably already moved on. His readers have probably already forgotten about your book. They are looking for good books. The rest, they forget. To them, your book is just another of many less than perfect books.

If we do respond to criticism, it is an opportunity to show character. I’ve never gotten a truly flaming review for any of my books. I’m not asking for someone to give me one either, but how a writer responds to someone who has a bone to pick tells other people a great deal about the writer. If the writer responds with a humble spirit and grace then people will see the writer as someone they would like to have as a friend. If the writer responds with a flame torch then people have a totally different impression.

I’ve had my share of situations in which I said something inadvertently or yes, maybe even intentionally, that caused someone pain. If that person acted in anger, my thought would be, see, I knew you were that way. On the other hand, if the person responded in grace it went a long way toward me saying, “Wow! You’re a lot better person than I am.”

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written: "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,saith the Lord." Therefore: "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. For in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." – Romans 12:19-20 (KJ21)


Jeanette Levellie said...

Timothy: What wisdom! Thank you for this post. I have not read one like it, yet it is an area that needs to be addressed.

Most of the time people who are cruel in their remarks are either hurting or insecure, acting out for attention. I have found if I pray for them, the pain leaves faster than if I brood over their caustic comments. It still stings, but not for as long.

Sometimes I've thought God may be allowing them to dis me because they need prayer, and He knows He can trust me to pray that they be blessed. I may be the only person interceding for them! This gives me some perspective.

Thanks for posting on this important topic,

Jeanette Levellie
Audience of One

Timothy Fish said...

How true. I too find it difficult to hold onto hurt feelings while I am praying for the benefit of the other person.