When listening to other opinions is bad for your health

I recently submitted my re-written manuscript to two brand new and one return beta readers to get  a fresh perspective on my novel and to find out if I’d fixed the issues a publisher pointed out to me in their amazing, red-lined critique.  One beta came back with overwhelming praise and a few minor niggles to correct.  The return beta came back with a somewhat harsher review but overall, I understood his points and I am considering them before I send the novel out to my last 2 betas.  The reviews from the third beta, however, broke my heart and reduced me to tears.  I didn’t eat well for two days, I snapped at my kids and my hubby, and quite frankly, felt horrible – like sick-to-my-stomach horrible. Not good.

What ground me to a halt and put me in such a state?  The following are just a few of the comments I received.

“I have never read such driveling nonsense.”  “The only fantastical thing I found in this book was that I actually finished it.  There were too many times I almost didn’t.”  “I felt cheated.  Why haven’t you thrown David and Charlotte together?  Are teens these days really so goody-goody? I think not.  You are obviously detached from today’s conundrums.  Get with the teen scene.  Charlotte’s comment to David to not look at  her boobs is ridiculous. Girls these days are all about showing off their boobs and getting as many guys to look at them as possible.  I felt like I was reading a D-rated fantasy novel from the 1950s.”   “I would not submit this to my English Lit teacher.  No offense but I think you should try your talents at something else because Tolstoy you are not.”

And the negativity kept coming.

I knew when I first read the comments (that also offered no hints as to how to make the  novel better), I should put it down and let it go.  It wasn’t beneficial.  It offered no constructive criticism.  Yet it was this review that stuck with me the most.

Why?  Why as artists, as human beings, do we allow the bad to outweigh the good, at least at first?  What is it about our psyche that makes us almost want to believe the bad?  Do we truly believe deep down we are terrible writers (insert hobby/job) and this stranger sees through the facade?  Why do we focus on those things that hurt us instead of those things that lift our spirits?

I wish I knew the answer.  All I know is I spent a lot of time over the past few days trying to figure out what was so horrible about my novel instead of what was so great about it.  After hours of shedding tears, and barking at my husband and my kids, I realized I was letting a stranger dictate my emotions.  A stranger.    Someone I will probably never meet.  Someone who hasn’t been with me on my journey.  Someone who may have had a bad day when he wrote his comments.  Heck, maybe he is just a negative person all the time.  How dare I let this stranger guide my emotions?  He’s not my husband, my children, my closest friends.  Why should I care what he thinks?

It’s ingrained, I guess.  I do care what others think, which is my problem.  I want to please everyone all the time and I forget to please me first.  I supposed that’s what comes with being a wife and mother for 27 years.  But it’s time for all that to change.  It’s time for me to be proud of me, of all I’ve accomplished, and to believe in myself and my writing.  My novel is not a D-rated novel from the ’50s.  It’s here, it’s now and I know there are good kids out there who are not focused on sex and drugs that will love my novel.

I therefore make a vow that from this point on, to take all comments with a grain of salt.  I will listen to all opinions, consider all critiques, however, I will first and foremost listen to my heart and the wonderful Spirit that gave me my voice and ability to write.  I have to please me and my family first.  And in the end, that’s all that matters.

What about you? Do you let critiques of your writing (or hobby/work) affect your moods and your health?