Dealing with the First Bad Review (Or, Suck it Up, Girly-Woman!)

Judy K. Walker's big white dog Fred with one ear up and one downI hope everyone (the Americans with decent jobs who got the day off, at least) enjoyed their Labor Day holiday. In the morning, when I usually write, my husband and I worked on our house in the hopes of avoiding the heat. (We were unsuccessful: it was much cooler later in the day, and we were dripping with sweat by early afternoon.) Afterward, I finished and uploaded my paperback revisions. (Yay!) When my focus started to unravel, I found myself at Goodreads. I’ve started an author account there, but don’t have a sense of how often I should check in or what I should be doing. And that’s when I found it. Back to Lazarus, average rating 1.0 stars. At first I thought it was just a glitch because I couldn’t actually find a review. Then I remembered: on Goodreads, you can rate a book without reviewing it. Sure enough, one person had rated BTL with one star, but didn’t write a review. That means, if you glance at BTL’s title and don’t squint to see that it’s only one rating, you’ll be certain it’s a really shitty book. And it probably is, for some people. Every book is not for every person. But why not this person? I think it would have been easier to let go of an actual review, with observations and opinions with which I could either agree or disagree, and maybe learn something or maybe not. Instead it was up to me to imagine the reasons, and I am a very imaginative person.

Close-up of little boy thinkingMy imaginings kept humming in the background while I did other things, and by evening I was dragging an existential funk with me everywhere I went. For the first time in months, I had doubts about what I was doing. What made me think I could be an author? I tried to take a step back and get some perspective. I was tired from the morning’s plywood ceiling panel installation (and un-installation, and re-installation) and because I’d woken up a little migrainey. I was already in a reviews funk because I’ve stalled out on Amazon in the mid-single digits (hint, hint!) and BTL is now invisible to anyone who doesn’t know it’s there. I was feeling overwhelmed because I’d missed a writing day and had several things coming up this week that would interfere with my regular writing schedule. I’d also done some calculations about where I’ll be on the current novel when some big travel pops up on the calendar—unfortunately probably not quite done with the first draft, so that didn’t help either.

Judy K. Walker's Ninja Kitty curled up with his paws covering his eyesThat’s when I realized the real problem. Oh yeah, I hadn’t written since Friday. I’d done some editing and notes and blog stuff, but I hadn’t really written. And with that thought, I was able to let it go. Well, mostly. After all, I’m sitting here blogging about it. But Tuesday morning I upped my word count a smidge to make up some of the deficit and zipped right through. (By the way, apologies if you’re subscribed to my blog and got several post notifications; I spent the rest of the day fixing some website issues). So over the next weeks and months I’ll try to remember the take-home: just put your head down and keep writing. Feel free to administer the dope-slap of compassion if I forget.

[The Ruh-Roh looking dog at the top is our Fred, the sweetest dog I know. The humiliated cat at the bottom is our aptly named Ninja Kitty, perhaps after missing a bird. Little Boy Thinking stock photo by David Castillo Dominici on]