Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rhys on Florida and Fragile Egos

Rhys in Florida, finding a hasty minute to create Friday's blog. I'm teaching at the Anhinga Writer's Conference in Gainesville and after that I'm going to be touring Florida with Mary Anna Evans, speaking in Orlando, Vero Beach, Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Sarasota. So far, as on most of my travels these days, I've only seen the inside of a hotel and a bookstore. But at some stage I'm hoping to encounter a beach. I'm definitely a beach person. I love to swim, I love the feel of warm water splashing over me. I am a passionate snorkeler and I love just walking along the beahc, feeling tension melt away. So I'm hoping for a few moments to escape during the next week. And maybe some chance to be with nature too. I've never seen a Matatee in the wild. Or a pink ibis.

But this wasn't what I wanted to blog about today. I was thinking of a non-fan letter I got this morning, telling me I'd got something wrong in my book. You'd think by now that I had become thick skinned about criticism. I haven't. I uuspect most writers have fragile egos like mine. Any hint of a bad review can send me into depression for days. If someone doesn't like the book,or even isn't glowing with praise about it, I walk around muttering to myself that the end is nigh and I'll probably never write another decent book again as long as I live. I know I should have a big banner over my desk saying, "It's just one person's opinion. It's just one person's opinion and she might have frightful taste in clothes and men as well." But I can't. It does matter. My book, after all, is like my child. It's like someone coming up to the stroller and peering and saying, "My God, but your kid is ugly."

I suppose I've always had a fragile ego. Okay, I confess that I clean my house before the house cleaner comes, just in case the cobweb in the corner is too unacceptable for a normal human being. I rush around tidying up even when one of my daughters is coming over. Oh, and I wash my hair before I go to the hairdresser.
So Jungle Reds--are you immune to criticism. Do you clean your house before the cleaning lady comes? Am I the only neurotic among us?

And just think positive thoughts for me that there will be no hurricanes!


  1. What is it about women and housecleaning? Do we create the cobwebs and dustbunnies? Why are we besieged with guilt when a new person comes into the house, and we apologize like mad for the mess?

    Okay, I do it too. But I get annoyed at myself each time.

    (Related question: why don't men care?)

  2. No I don't clean for the housecleaner though I definitely pick up! How else can she get at the mess?:)

    I suspect criticism will always hurt Rhys, but I have gotten a little better at letting it go. One good trick is to send it to my very best buddies and let them rebut the critique or bad review. They do a better job of knocking the reviewer down to size than I could, and coming from the outside, (sort of), their rebuttal counts!

  3. I definitely clean before the cleaning lady comes, but that's because I have a tendency to fling my clothes all over the place and my golden retriever likes to relocate them for me.

    I got a negative comment on Amazon over a year ago and it still smarts. I no longer want her dead and I consider that progress.

    I try not to read reviews anymore. If my editor or publicist sends me something I know it's probably okay and I'll read it, but I do not seek out other people's comments on my writing. Some will like it and some won't. What can you do?

  4. I'm with Rosemary - I try not to read reviews. And since I'm sometimes on the other side of a negative review, I try to write them without being snarky...just say why (specifically) the book didn't work for me. Because there will always be people who love love love your work and people who...don't.

    What I have noticed is that the bigger and more successful an author gets, the more others seem to enjoy putting down their work. I suppose this is something to look forward to.

  5. Man, I do not look forward to snarky reviews. But I do expect them -- feels a bit tender already, like a bruise for a blow that hasn't yet landed.

    I wonder if 25 years of reading anonymous student evaluations helps, and if the ratio of 'loved this' to 'hated her, may she rot in Hell' is similar.

    And yes, I have the housecleaning thing, too. :/

    Here's wishing you the beach and lighter moments, Rhys! We splash vicariously through you.

  6. AH, Rhys, I'm sorry to smile, but you do make me feel better. So, I'm not the only one.

    Cleaning up for the cleaning people? Absolutely. No question.

    Haunted by criticism? Are you kidding me? The only way I get through it, which took me a long time to learn, is by saying to myself: someday I'm not going to care about this anymore. So I'm going to try "not to care" sooner.
    It kind of works.

    And I get a lot of phone calls and emails from people who hate my TV investigative stories--because they say I've "ruined their lives," or somehow been unfair. One irate viewer called me a "cheese puff."

    That, I can't get over.

    Also, Rhys, remember all the people who adore you. (Including us.) And Roberta, I like the sic'ing your friends on 'em method. I'll remember that.

  7. Oh by no means are you the ONLY neurotic! I'm right there with you, cleaning before the housekeeper comes. And talk about sensitive to criticism? I told my book club they could not review my book while I'm at the meeting! They're sweethearts, though, thank goodness, and understood my fragile writer's ego!

  8. I'm so glad to know I'm not the only neurotic in the world. Hank, it would be much worse having to take phone calls from people saying you ruined their lives. And scary too as I don't expect you do stories only about nice, well behaved people!
    I've been lucky with most of my reviews, so I can't really complain, but the one stars on Amazon do raise my hackles, expeically when they just don't get it
    It's thundering like crazy in Florida!
    I hope to see Rebbie in Sarasota in a few days, if we can get around with no hurricanes!

  9. If I had a cleaning service, you'd better believe that I'd clean first!!

    As for feeling slapped down by snarky comments and reviews...m'mmm, yep. A year or two ago I ran across a blog post someone had written about an article I'd co-written. It was a frothy, funny thing and the blog author didn't get it. Her comments (which I should have laughed at) really smarted and they weren't at all nasty...she just didn't get it.

    You are by no means alone!