To Read or Not to Read?

Reviews that is…

I’ve been wondering this week whether it’s a good idea to read complete stranger’s opinions of your work? Or is it the saner approach to just surround yourself with the slightly biased and generally kinder words of those you know?

This question also relates to the world of social media feedback of course. Everything’s up for a review when you post it online, whether it’s Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. You may get a like or a thumbs down, an encouraging comment, or just as easily get ripped to shreds by a bad-tempered, small-minded troll who does not like your lovingly slaved over, artistically presented cheesecake.

So do you do it… read what they say about you or your work? Or leave yourself in a carefree bubble, sans negativity?

As a Mum of three, I’ve spent many post-school afternoons advising my tribe to ignore what someone said to them that day. My philosophy towards negative comments was… ‘does the person who said it matter to you? In 10 years time will you even remember that person’s name?’ Then I took that philosophy further, inspired by wise woman and author, Brene Brown, who carries a tiny piece of paper in her wallet with the names of the only people whose opinions matter to her written on it. Everybody else can go jump!

But what do you do if you put your work out into the world and you want people to consume it? Should you then read what they think of it? Will it help to make you a better artist, writer, chef?

I’ve thought about this since I read a review of my book that left me bummed out. I really wasn’t sure what approach I should take going forward, but after some reflection, I realise now that, a) I don’t know the person, so b) they’re not on my list, and therefore c) no, their opinion is not one I choose to care about.

If I want a critique to help me improve, then I’ll seek it from one of the people on my list. Someone I know, someone who is supportive and believes in me and what I’m doing. The other opinions and reviews, while they may ultimately help sell my work, are not something that I can control. You’ll either like me, like my work, or you won’t. And that’s OK. All I can do is be proud of what I put out there and leave it up to everyone else to make up their own minds. I can’t twist myself up in knots of self-doubt trying to please every person in the world because that’s an impossible, misery-making quest that no one should ever embark upon.

Ultimately, you have to please yourself. Ultimately, you have to be yourself. If you flip and flop and change with the wind of opinion, you’ll just end up a worn piece of plain cloth flapping in the breeze. Unrecognisable to even yourself.

So here’s my plan…

I’m gonna dig my feet into the earth,
and make myself a tree.
If my roots are strong and deep,
then the wind won’t trouble me.

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