Look for my review of Stuart's debut novel, Jackals, tomorrow, but first...
I am willing to bet a truckload of money on the fact that any artist, regardless of medium, has, at one time, been in the nerve-racking position of debuting their work, and despite their best efforts, have been terrified!
I don’t care how good you are or how much of a prodigy you believe yourself to be, you would have been shaking with trepidation regarding what people will think, and praying that the general public and reviewers look favourably at your work.
I myself felt this sensation when I was about to release my first novel Jackals. It was my baby, a thing of beauty and self-perceived genius that I had spent four months of my life dedicating myself to. In my mind, it was truly awesome, and I couldn’t wait to unleash it upon the world. As the day finally came, I braced myself for the onslaught, secretly hoping that people would enjoy my work as much as I had enjoyed writing it. It really was a case of batten down the hatches and await the hurricane of reviews and personal perceptions.
I have to say I was blown away by the reaction; in fact, the word humble doesn’t even begin to describe the sensation I feel when people talk about my novel. But it could have so easily gone the other way. It had the potential to start me on the path of a downward spiral, my fragile self-belief being used as nothing more than a break as my literary career scrambled to slow my rapid descent into oblivion and personal failure.
I like to think of myself as being a bit of a down to earth and grounded fellow and think of myself as being a leader, not a follower, regardless of what task I am undertaking. I have always danced to my own tune and refuse to play second fiddle to anyone. Bearing this clarity of vision in mind, I have often stated that I don’t care what other people think of me, and their opinion is of little consequence to my day to day dealings. But, in truth, perhaps that’s tinged with more than a little touch of ego and alpha pride.
I once heard the singer Marilyn Manson state that he DOES care what people think of him, but only the ones he respects. When I heard him say that I was nodding in agreement because, for all of my male bravado, I myself DID and DO care what people think of me and my work, but like he said, it was only those I respect.
Obviously, neither you nor I can please everyone. There will always be reviewers and readers that hate your work, be it due to the writing style, subject or voice, there will always be the haters, the ones who just don’t feel you should be breathing, let alone writing. Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t feel a little annoyed by someone’s perception of me but I know it’s all part of the game I must play if I wish to keep releasing books.
On more than one occasion I have heard many a famous musician, author or actor state that developing a thick skin is an absolute necessity when putting your work out into the public domain. You are, after all, putting yourself at the mercy of public opinion and there are some out there who have nothing better to do than court controversy and illicit untruths. This is becoming an ever increasing problem due to the internet, where cyber stalking or trolling seems to be a viable pastime. Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing myself to some A-list movie stars, and I sure as hell don’t earn their kind of money, but the principal is exactly the same.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy reading great reviews of my work, it plumps my ego and makes me fit to burst with personal pride, but I also have to take the worst reviews just as seriously. I can’t just accept the good and discard the bad regardless of how much I dislike what is being said. So if our ego is so fragile what are we to do? Bury our heads in the sand for fear of reading or hearing something we don’t like?
The moral of the story- Don’t listen to any of it. Just do what you want and put it out there, ignore the haters and take pride in what you do. Enjoy it, because none of us truly know how much time we have on this rotating ball of water and dirt. In the greater scheme of things, we are only here for a fraction of a second so let’s make the most of it.