NO, LOVE, you’re not alone. Every single storyteller (or any other kind of creative person) gets bad reviews. Granted, some get more than others, but generally speaking, we all get our confidences knocked down a peg or two every now and then. But it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
And just because someone said you suck, it doesn’t necessarily make them right. Yes, being criticized can set off an avalanche of feelings. In the moment, it may feel like a giant spotlight has been trained on you and the whole world can see your flaws and shortcomings. The truth is, the vast majority don’t give a rat’s arse about you or your reviews. In fact, bad reviews can even get you more readers.
If you can get used to criticism, or at least accept that it’s a part of a creative’s life, it can help reduce your anxiety and make it easier to roll with the punches. It may also help to think about successful writers and other successful people who have been rejected, given bad reviews or have found themselves in the centre of massive online shitstorms.
Colonel Harland Sanders was 65 years old and retired before he began his journey to create his Kentucky Fried Chicken empire. He was rejected 1,009 times before someone said yes to helping him develop and promote his fried chicken recipe.
Thomas Edison was ridiculed by his teachers and told he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Despite the criticism, Edison went on to hold over 1,000 patents and is credited with creating the light bulb and the phonograph.
Walt Disney is revered as a man of imagination. His legacy, Disneyland, still hosts nearly 44,000 people per day at what has been described as the Happiest Place on Earth. Prior to his success, Disney was fired for not being creative enough and had ventures that ended in bankruptcy.
Vera Wang had high hopes of becoming an Olympian. When those hopes were dashed because she couldn’t make the team, she had to find a plan B. As a world-renowned designer, she overcame critical feedback that crushed her dreams to create a new path and flourish.
Novelist Stephen King wrote his first book, Carrie, which was rejected so many times he threw it away. Luckily, his wife retrieved the book and encouraged him to keep trying. Today, King has written nearly 300 stories, many of which have become major movies. He has won countless awards and hasn’t looked back.
JK Rowling’s famous Harry Potter book was rejected 12 times. She wrote the book as a single mother sitting in coffee shops while her child slept. Unable to carve out a living and being rejected repeatedly took a toll, but Rowling finally broke through and far exceeded her own expectations for her book, which famously went on to become a series of books and movies.
In the moment, rejection feels very personal and isolating but you are in very good company. Everyone is rejected from time to time. Everyone is criticized for something. The main thing to remember is to learn from the experience and to never let it stop you. If you want to be a writer, there’s only one way to get there. You have to keep writing.
The next time you feel the sting of criticism, remind yourself you are not alone. And let the words flow.