I Am Not a Jackass Whisperer: Why I Don’t Read Reviews

Recently, a friend mentioned in passing that she’d written a review for my book, “The Name of the Game.” I hadn’t even realized she’d read the book, let alone left a glowing review. I thanked her and apologized for not acknowledging it earlier.

Then I had to admit an awkard truth: I don’t read reviews.

At least not anymore.

When my book was first published,  I dutifully solicited reviews from websites and blogs, fellow authors, and even friends who had bought the book. I knew how important reviews were for sales, and let’s be honest here, I wanted to hear how much people loved my writing.

But then a funny thing happened — I started believing the reviews. If someone loved the book, I loved it. If someone dismissed it, I dismissed it.

Before I knew it, the reviews of a story I put down on paper had become reviews of me. They became reviews of my worth as a writer and a person.

That’s not how I want to live my life, so I knew I had to do something. Fast. I pulled out my old copy of Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” and reread the second agreement, Don’t Take Anything Personally. I reminded myself that good, bad, or indifferent, someone else’s opinion is about them, not me. I shut down my Google alerts, and decided that the only thing that mattered was that my book was being read.

In January, “The Name of the Game” was featured as Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deal. It was incredibly exciting to watch my little romantic comedy climb the charts all day, eventually peeking at the #3 spot, just below Nicholas Sparks and Glenn Beck.

But with that increased exposure came a flurry of new reviews. I tried not to read them, I really did. But when I saw the first one- and two-star reviews pop up, I just had to know. What could possibly be so bad about my book?

The handful of terrible reviews included such insightful comments as, “Everything about this book was boring.”  (Really? Everything? Such penetrating analysis!)

Another discerning reviewer called the story “silly.”  (It’s a romantic comedy about two people who have the same name. Silly is kind of the point. So, I guess…thanks?)

Instead of tearing up, I found myself laughing out loud.

It got me wondering what these same critics thought of my favorite authors. I checked the reviews for some books I truly adore, and lo-and-behold, they too were “boring” and “silly.”

It was a true Aha! Moment, something I knew intellectually, but had to discover spiritually: a review is just one person’s opinion, and it’s more about them than me or my work.

It’s been nearly six months since I’ve read a review for my book, and I wholeheartedly agree when Ruiz says,  “There is a huge amount of freedom when you take nothing personally.”

Don’t get me wrong, I know word of mouth is still the best way to get my book to new readers, and I appreciate when someone takes the time to write a review for my book. And I still love knowing that someone enjoyed my book. But I won’t determine my worth, not even for one tiny second, by someone else’s opinion.

In “Daring Greatly,” researcher-storyteller Brene Brown says, with her usual sass and smarts, “Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.”

After her inspiring TEDTalk on The Power of Vulnerability went viral, Brown was criticized for everything from her research to her weight to her wrinkles. Her first instinct was to shrink from the spotlight to get away from it all. But she was spurred on by this great quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly.”

In a recent O Magazine interview, Brene continues where Teddy left off: “If you are not in the arena getting your butt kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in your feedback. Period.  Anonymous comments? You’re not in the arena, man. If you can’t say it to me in person in front of my kids, don’t say it.  And if you can say it to me in person, duck.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Kindle Daily Deal Blog Hop

The Name of the Game is available today for only 99 cents as part of Kindle’s Daily Deal! In honor of this exciting event, some of my fellow authors are generously hosting me on their blogs today.

Favorite Sexy Nerds on RobynNeeley.com
The unlikely hero of my contemporary romance “The Name of the Game” is an accounting professor named Mac. Despite his seemingly unending supply of sweater vests, there’s something about him that free-spirited flight attendant Kyle can’t get enough of. He’s uptight and nerdy, yes — but she also discovers he’s sweet and surprisingly sexy.Here are a few of my favorite nerds who inspired the character of Mac… Read More

Guest Author Interview on VeronicaScott.wordpress.com/
I try to find happiness in every single day, but I’d say my best capital-“H” Happy Time was making my short film SOLO last year. My husband directed, I wrote and produced, and we filmed on location in my hometown in Florida. We had an incredible cast and crew, and my whole family pitched in on every aspect of the production. It was the most exhausting week of my life, but I got to spend it doing one of my favorite things with my favorite people. Read more

Author Interview on SuziLove.com
I think readers will love that my heroine Kyle is determined to find happiness on her own terms. She’s not quite what she seems, and over time, it becomes clear that she’s had to fight to for the life she has. And I hope they’ll like that even though she’s beautiful and smart, she’s also sometimes a mess — just the like the rest of us! Read More

5 Questions on KristiKnight.blogspot.com/
I stole the world “blerg” from Tina Fey. It’s used to express a combination of frustration, annoyance, and “only me,” as in midway though a date: “Wait, we’re cousins? BLERG!”
I also love to say the word “automagic” for something that automatically updates, but with an air of magic, as in, “Facebook figured out we were cousins and automagically updated our status to “It’s Complicated.”  Read More

When Opposites Attract on BethYarnall.com
It’s hard to imagine a couple more different than the hero and heroine of my book, “The Name of the Game.” Mac is a nerdy but cute accounting professor who wears sweater vests. Kyle is a free-spirited flight attendant who dresses like Carmen Miranda and practices scream therapy. Despite their differences, they find themselves drawn together, and eventually realize they might have more in common than just physical attraction.Some of the best couples in fiction (and real life) are examples of opposites attracting. There’s something about the yin and the yang, the friction of differences, that gets at the heart of why falling in love is so exciting. Read more

Thanks so much to Kristi Knight, Suzi Love, Robyn Neeley, Veronica Scott and Beth Yarnall for hosting me!

My Top 10 Story Songs

Even though I grew up in the South, I spent most of my time there avoiding country music. As an aspiring writer, I just couldn’t connect with the lyrics of saloon tunes like “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”

But over time, I came to realize that those silly line-dance songs were actually outliers in a genre full of rich storytelling. Infidelity, alcoholism, abortion, loneliness, growing up — country music explores the themes of love and loss through intimate stories rather than broad strokes.

Outside of country music, narrative songs are few and far between, which makes them all the more special. Here are ten of my favorite (non-country) story songs — please leave a comment and let me know yours!

(Note: I’ve included videos here because that’s the easiest way to share music these days, but videos for story songs are rarely on par with the songs themselves. You’ve been warned.)

1) The Leader of the Band – Dan Fogelberg

A beautiful, simple tribute. I dare you to listen to this one without crying. I dare you.

2) Hazard – Richard Marx

Richard Marx made a career of churning out sweet love songs, but he hit his peak with “Hazard,” an intriguing noir set to an equally haunting tune.

3) Operator – Jim Croce

The whole story’s revealed in this one line: “She’s living in L.A. with my best old ex-friend Ray.”

4) Stan – Eminem featuring Dido

Eminem’s creepy tale of an obsessed fan became even more dramatic when juxtaposed with Dido’s angelic voice.

5) Space Oddity – David Bowie

Major Tom is arguably the most prolific story song character in history, having gone on to star in several other songs by both Bowie and other artists.

6) Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

Few songs about the desire to run away capture the life-and-death weight of this story.

7) Same Auld Lang Syne – Dan Fogelberg

The one that got away revisited in one magical yet bittersweet night.

8) Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton

Perfectly illustrates that stories are often told through a series of small, seemingly unimportant moments.

9) Rocket Man – Elton John

One man’s experience being a solitary human separated from humanity.

10) Sand in My Shoes – Dido

The first chapter in a romance story that I really want to read.

Did I overlook a great narrative song? Share your favorite story song in the comments below!

When the Internet Makes You Cry

When the sound of my crying wakes my husband Lex in the middle of the night, it’s usually because I’ve read something incredibly sad on the internet. Abused animals, hungry children, acts of unimaginable violence — somehow, the most depressing news of the day always finds me.

“Where do you get these stories?” he asks. “Are you on the Sad Internet?”

“It’s impossible to hide from them,” I say. “You see the same headlines, you just don’t click on them.”

“Exactly.”

He brings up a valid point. I’m acutely aware of the problems of the world, so why do I have to read yet another story highlighting human depravity?

Years ago, long before the internet and 24-hour cable news cycle, my mom told me that the human body was not designed to process the bad news of everyone in the entire world. And she’s right.

Research shows that consuming negative news not only increases anxiety and sadness about the world, it also exacerbates personal worries that are not even related to the content of the news. So an upsetting story about a murder can get us churning about how we’re going to pay off our credit card.

And it’s worse for women.  A new study shows that women are not only more distressed by sad news stories, they retain the details in their memories for much longer than men.

So what’s an internet-lovin’ lady to do?

For me, it helps to pause before I click. It started as a joke — I would read a headline to Lex and he’d tell me if I was “allowed” to click on it. But after saying a few of these ridiculous headlines out loud, I realized I was onto something.

Man Stabs Grandmother 111 Times and Dismembers Body? That’s gonna be a pass.

Police Shoot Unarmed Schizophrenic Paraplegic? No freakin’ way.

Heroic Golden Retriever Rescues Brother? Absolutely!

Psychology Today offers these tips to avoid being overwhelmed by sad and stressful news:

Focus on the good by seeking out positive news sources. I like happynews.com, goodnewsnetwork.org, and huffingtonpost.com/good-news.

Embrace the full spectrum on the human experience, acknowledging the bad with the good. As Jon Kabat-Zinn explains in Full Catastrophe Living(a must-read for anyone seeking a more mindful, peaceful life), we should strive to appreciate “the richness of life and the inevitability of all its dilemmas, sorrows, tragedies, and ironies.” By doing so, we will never be weighed down for too long.

Ground yourself in spirituality or religion. Scientific research connects belief in a benevolent higher power with decreased anxiety.

Do something People who take any positive action — no matter how small — report having less stress and anxiety about the fate of the world.

So tonight, after I unwind with my favorite benign TV shows, like “Remington Steele” and “Frasier,” I’ll resist the urge to hop on the Sad Internet. And if I simply must go online, I’ll stick to the adorable Animals catergory on Pinterest.