Where I psychology the hell out of myself for the fun of it…’I don’t like you’ the psychology of a bad review.

My husband was reading a self help book recently (which in itself is quite funny if you know my husband), and these incidences that flatten us and kill our confidence apparently almost always have an early childhood trigger. So it got me thinking, why did the awful review I received for one of my stories kill my confidence and why is it still killing it? It was just one review and I’ve had plenty of good ones since then.
Is there an incident in my past that could relate to this?
Yes, there is.
As soon as I started thinking about this, one incident in particular flashed bulbed into my mind. It’s a truly tiny incident in the scale of things-I suffered a fair amount of abuse as a child, but for now I am ignoring that as although it relates to why I cannot write anything but sad stories, it doesn’t directly relate to low self esteem in my writing.
So, as I say, this incident is tiny but it hurt and I remember it some twenty five ish years later…

I was 10 maybe and I was at Girl Guide camp. I hated Girl Guide camp. I hated Girl Guides. I hated anything that involved other people telling me what to do. I still do. I am not Girl Guide material. And I had to wear a uniform and I hated that too. So it was going well.
We were camping in a cow field and there were about ten of us to a tent. A huge drafty army looking thing that smelled of cowpats and damp. I had one friend in the tent. But I was okay with that. I was a quiet kid. I got on with my own stuff. I tried to be kind and helpful.
I had the hugest crush on another girl who was also in our tent. She was a year or so older than me and called Cindy. She didn’t look like a Cindy. She had short cropped blond hair and she was very androgynous. I didn’t know that word then, I only remember thinking she looked like a boy and I wanted to kiss her. I’m pretty sure she didn’t know I existed and she has nothing to do with this other than she was friends with another girl in our tent called Virginia, who was also a year or so older.
Virginia seemed to be popular with all the other kids. She had long dark hair and had brought a lot of nice girly stuff camping. I guessed she was rich. I had my scratchy Girl Guides uniform and that was it.
One morning, Virginia walked up to me when I was standing outside the tent (daydreaming probably) and said, “I don’t like you. I really don’t like you.”
I remember feeling winded. No one had ever said that to me before. I was never mean or offensive, I didn’t get in people’s way, I tried to be nice. I wasn’t sure it had even occurred to me that someone wouldn’t like me (yes, I was that sheltered and naive). I remember thinking but why? Why doesn’t she like me? Why was I unlikeable? What had I done wrong?
I made it about me. When it wasn’t. It was all about her. But when you’re a naive and probably somewhat dreamy 10 year old who would rather retreat from the world entirely rather than confront anyone, it becomes about you. Everything becomes about you.
My friend even asked her. “Why don’t you like her?”
And Virginia replied with a dismissive shrug, “I just don’t.”
I cried. I have a vague recollection of being in the dark tent and the door flapping in the wind, the sun still shining, of Cindy comforting me. I was devastated.

So why does this tiny incident relate to this one particularly bad review? The reviewer didn’t make any personal comments about me in their review, it wasn’t a personal attack. I doubt she knows anything about me or cares. What on earth am I still feeling so bad about?
The incident relates because I was naive enough to think no one would hate my story. That is it.
I was prepared for some people not liking it. My writing is stylistic and that is definitely not everyone’s thing, but as for hating it? No. I didn’t think I’d written anything that offensive, that bad–and there is a big ol’ difference between meh and this is the worst book I’ve ever read–and I found myself thinking, why? Why does she hate it? What did I do wrong? That exact same exhausting, crazy pattern of thinking.

So I have to go back and give my 10 year old self a hug–so what if Virginia didn’t fucking like me. Maybe she felt so threatened by me for whatever reason and she felt she had to come and put me down, maybe she was just a horrible person, whatever, it really doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t matter because there were a whole lot of people that did like me and that I liked too. All I did wrong was think I had to be liked by the whole world.

Same principles apply for bad reviews, people. The whole world is never going to like your story. Someone somewhere is going to hate the name you chose for you main character (it’s their dog’s name you crazy writer person, how can they take you seriously now!!?), the tense you chose to write in (I mean everything ever should be in third person past shouldn’t it? Writing in other tenses is experimentation and the devil’s work o.0), the fact that you made them cry or feel anything, the fact you book fucking ended and they wanted it to go forevvvar.
Crazy reasons because it’s a crazy world.

I’m in good company is all I can say.

P.S. I made up a little scenario that made me smile–I imagined the whole thing was about Cindy. Virginia was jealous, she wanted Cindy all to herself but Cindy was pining after me 😛

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About sukifleet

Suki Fleet currently lives in the heart of England. Her childhood was quite unconventional and she spent some time living on a boat and travelling at sea with her family. Since she was very small she has always dreamed of writing for a living, but though she has written original fiction online for years and encouraged many new writers to keep going and follow their author dreams, it is only recently she got the courage to make her own dream a reality and actually send something off to a publisher. By day she runs her own business selling fabric (her second love) and juggling family commitments, by night she weaves the stories that the characters in her head dictate. These stories often start with pain or longing but always end with love.
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13 Responses to Where I psychology the hell out of myself for the fun of it…’I don’t like you’ the psychology of a bad review.

  1. xlorix says:

    I love this post…and, boy do I remember the horror of girl guide camp! I get exactly what you’re saying on all levels. I have to tell you though, I think this person read your story wrong! You’re an amazingly talented writer. Talented in a seemingly effortless way (I know, what a ridiculous thing to say).

  2. dawnsister says:

    It was all Virginia’s fault, and she was totally jealous of you and Cindy. I have seen that scenario played out so many times at camps I’ve been to, where two great friends suddenly end up not liking each other at all because one finds out the other is really just a shallow bitch. Cindy discovered this about Virginia at that camp believe me. You might have hated that camp for the harsh comments, but Cindy learned an invaluable lesson too. That’s how I see it anyway.
    And of course, you must never ever name any of your characters after anyone’s dog, or pet in general. Maybe there is a list out there somewhere that we should be checking because I’ve had that comment too. For some reason, I think some of these reviewers think we are writing the story for them personally. What a larf, eh?

  3. All I did wrong was think I had to be liked by the whole world.

    Whoa, dude, your whole post made me think, but this… I felt a little winded when I read it.
    If you write the story about Virginia and Cindy, can I be first in line to read it?
    *hugs*

    • sukifleet says:

      Thanks, Charley ❤
      It was really cathartic writing this out. I'd never consciously admitted a lot of this even to myself before, but I needed to 🙂
      Haha as for story, yes, dude!! XD

  4. K. Z. Snow says:

    “I was naive enough to think no one would hate my story.” Therein lies the rub, Suki. Every time a writer releases a book, whether it’s the first or the fiftieth, s/he sends it into the world with that mindset — however subconscious the mindset is. Sure, after a point we become adept at intellectualizing reader dislike. A book is a product, after all (we tell ourselves). Given the infinite variety of human tastes, not every consumer in the world will love every product. BUT . . . having an intellectual grasp of this truth is different from accepting it on an emotional level. Creative sorts seem to have particular difficulty understanding how their product could ever be unappreciated. Still, it happens. All the time. Regardless of our belief that everything we turn out is worthy of admiration, somebody somewhere will react to it the way Americans react to marmite. We’ll never feel good about that. The most we can hope for is resigning ourselves to it. 😉

    • sukifleet says:

      ‘Creative sorts seem to have particular difficulty understanding how their product could ever be unappreciated.’
      Oh yeah, I agree. But it’s also part of sharing your work, isn’t it–that risk? It reminds me of athletes too (or anyone in a competitive sphere)–a lot of the time you’re going to lose the race, but when and if you win it’s fucking amazing!
      When your work touches someone, it makes all the rest worthwhile (for me anyway :P)

      • kitmoss says:

        P.S. And the fact of the matter is that anyone at all can express their pinhead opinions on the Internet, which means that dimwits like that girl at camp have as much freedom to be assholes as anyone else. You know the saying, “It’s better to be silent and have people think you are an idiot than open your mouth and prove it.”

  5. kitmoss says:

    I really appreciated this post, Suki. It was honest and thoughtful and you were kind to your 10 year old self. We could all take a leaf from your book. I know I have a complex about not being taken seriously. I honestly think this comes from having been a boy all along but being trewated like a girl because that’s what I look like.. all except my brain, which no one can see. If they could see my brain they would take me seriously… oh damn, what a convoluted bit of reasoning. It just is and it never will wuite make sense. That is what you taught me.

    Kit Moss

  6. Katherine Halle says:

    This post – just wow, it blew me away. I think every writer should read this post. It was honest and heartfelt and I really think you hit the nail on the head. That idea that everyone is going to like our work – even though intellectually we know that can’t possibly be true. At the risk of a trite quote, “The heart wants what the heart wants” and we all want to be liked. So any less than positive review is going to hurt. It’s how we handle that hurt that counts.

    Thanks for the story of Virginia and Cindy and yeah, Cindy totally pined after you and Virginia wanted Cindy all to herself. *HUGS*

    <333
    Katherine

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