Dealing with negative criticism

I recently received my first truly negative review out on Amazon. What a punch to the gut! I know it comes with the territory, but I’ve proven myself to be more fragile than I’d care to admit. The anonymous reviewer was polite and appears to have choked down the entire contents of the book—like cod liver oil. The fact that they really wanted to like it makes the experience even more difficult. There’s no explaining it away. This was an honest review.

All books receive bad reviews eventually. The following was taken from Amazon:

“This collection of books is really, really terrible and boring, and I wouldn’t wish the task of reading in on my worst enemy.” – Review of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Nobody will be liked, much less loved, by everybody. Jesus Christ gets his share of bad reviews too! In case you’re wondering, the English Standard Version of the Bible currently has a rating of 4.5 from thousands of reviewers. As of right now, the 23 reviews of The Emancipation of a Buried Man come to an average of 4.7 on Amazon. Do I really expect this number to remain higher than the Bible? Clearly I’ll be needing thicker skin.

My best work is still inside of me. Shouldn’t we all believe this, regardless of age? Whether we grow crops, write books, or play the guitar, our craft is being refined through the simple act of living. Harper Lee’s immediate success with To Kill a Mockingbird (boasting an average review identical to my own, albeit from a few more reviewers) was not good for her. Widely considered one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, she never wrote another book. Fear of failure seems to have crippled her. What a loss.

Fear and perfectionism. These are the twin bastards that authors must defeat in battle.

I tend to pull out of the funk of depression apart from the actual process of writing, and definitely away from the computer.

congregants 1

Buying stuff doesn’t usually help, but a pair of $5 bills have gone a long way toward proving that assumption wrong. At my local hardware store I picked up that gate spring you see down near chicken level. The mere thought of it cheers me right up, as does the $5 bale of hay spread out in its entirety.

congregants 2

I’ve raised no less than four flocks of chickens. It has taken me all this time to finally figure out the secret to an inspiring chicken run. The gate should swing out instead of in! (The spring forces the gate rapidly back into position so the birds don’t get eaten by my dog.)

congregants 3

Chickens very quickly eat and trample 100% of the vegetative cover in their pen, the ground of which becomes a disgusting hardpan. Now I’m forever free of this. Deep litter—six to eight inches thick— in the chicken run is the answer to many of life’s most persistent problems! The gate swinging out allows the hay and leaves to build to a sufficient depth. Previously the inward swing of the gate prevented it. Now the chickens can be chickens even when they’re not running loose in the gardens. They are never left without something to do, their yard is pleasing to look at, I can walk in there after a rain without becoming filthy, and the entire job of chicken-keeping has become a lot more satisfying through this very simple adjustment.

After I lost my job many well-wishers shared the old adage, “When God shuts a door, he opens a window.” I never found this to be particularly encouraging. The gate, however, is another story. The simple act of removing the hinges and causing the gate to swing outward instead of inward changed everything. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, and I don’t even feel the need to draw it out fully. I didn’t move the gate or reinvent the wheel. I simply learned to see the situation differently. Often our problems can be solved through seeing things from a slightly altered perspective. Well, now my gate swings out. I didn’t need to find an open window somewhere. I still haven’t figured out my family’s future, but for some odd reason this experience gives me hope.

We all need hope in the future. Due to some freaky weather, I was able to plant garlic yesterday. On December 9th in Duluth! That is beyond weird. Though I’d rather be skiing, it felt good to sink 14 cloves into the soil. These are seeds of hope. Yeah, the depression has been real! The darn things might not come up, but it’s an interesting experiment. Even a little bit of hope is intensely valuable. I’m protecting mine with 8 inches of hay and leaves.

Life goes on. The teepee is skinned, so there’s that too….

teepeeI am striving not to find joy and self-worth in what others think. It’s also not going to arrive in the mailbox, inbox, a large number of page views on this blog, or on Facebook. That’s incredibly obvious, but living it out each day is a challenge.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

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3 thoughts on “Dealing with negative criticism

  1. You made me laugh again Eddy. Looking at ones life with the attitude of gratitude and simplicity can be strenuous but very gratifying and fills one with hope springing from the eternal one. SJR

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