Sunday, 21 August 2011

Good Reviews

Just to balance out my last post, I've been thinking a lot about good reviews.

Of course we all want good reviews. To be read and appreciated, even to have our work loved and praised, is every writer's secret desire. But are good reviews any use to us?

I've been on writers' forums where mutual praise and backslapping reached the level of a circle jerk. I even once saw a newly published writer ask her online buddies to go and leave good reviews on Amazon to counter something nasty a beastly genuine reviewer had written. I don't think it's unusual, and glowing customer reviews need to be viewed with a degree of scepticism for that reason.

But even genuine good reviews harbour dangers for the writer. Any praise inflates our old enemy, the Ego. Give him enough of it and he's changed from your pugilistic ally into an overweening monster. Without criticism you can't grow and develop and improve. Your talent withers and calcifies. You lose inspiration and the drive to make a better job of it.

So praise, genuine or otherwise, can be toxic even if it is addictive. Accept it with care.

1 comment:

Matt Larkin said...

While I can see your point, I think many authors really need good reviews for the same reason, to boost their egos. It can be really hard to have self-confidence in something as intensely personal as art, such as writing, and the validation granted by being told you did well (especially by a neutral party) can help a writer continue his or her craft.

An overconfident writer is a bad thing, but a lack of confidence seems an even more common problem.