If you’re a writer putting your work out there for others to read, at some point you’ll hear the advice: Do not read your reviews. Oh, you’ll do it anyway, at least for a while, but those bad reviews can sting. Well, at least when they’re coherent they can.
Bad reviews also sting because writers have feelings. (This seems to be a missing cog in some reviewers’ wheels.)
If we didn’t have feelings, we wouldn’t be able to write anything worth reading. We internalize what we read and what we see. That’s how we have enough mishegas—craziness—in our heads to need to GET IT OUT onto paper. For others to read. And review. Apparently so that we have more to internalize. Because we internalize what we read. (See a pattern emerging?)
And that’s what brings me to this next bit of advice that no one ever shared with me. I’m giving you this to your straight to save you all some heartache and to save you a trip to the reflecting pond. Because you know we all go there anyway. No need for extra travel.
Do not read the long bios of other authors.
I did this so you don’t have to.
Have a great time reading the short snappy ones on the back of the book, but back away from the long ones. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones tucked away or maybe even highlighted online that outline a lifetimes of degrees, travels, accomplishments, and diseases cured. Or the ones that detail the scuba diving prowess, the years digging wells in underprivileged countries, the Fortune 500 job ditched when a novel written on weekends hit it big.
Until I fell down the online rabbit hole of author bios, I’d really considered writing the great equalizer of my life. You write, I write, we have something in common. That’s all we need. Writing is an intense gig, writers can talk about a paragraph for hours.
But, for some reason, these compacted lives just toppled me. Had fact that I’d not done any of those important things tipped the scales in someone else’s favor? What else had I missed out on? I didn’t have time replant forests and living in a hut or in Dubai was not an option. I started raising kids in 1992. But some of these authors have also raised children (although my daughter assures me there is no way these people have friends).
I insisted to myself I am the only published author in the universe without a master’s degree in something. Had everyone been required to join the peace corp or save dolphins or spearhead urban gardening initiatives? And why didn’t I get the memo?
In those few moments of hazed uncertainty I was sure that while I was following my ex around the country while he followed his dream everyone else was intentionally padding their future curricula vitae for a website they didn’t even know would exist—when it never even occurred to me to do anything but what I was doing simply for the sake of doing it.
Where was everyone else who did nothing?*
While some of my everyday and everything friends are writers, I don’t know too much about most of my writer friends other than their writing, and the tidbits they share on social media. Cute kids and sports. Cute kids and school. Cute kids and awards. Inspirational quote. Pedicures (which I hate). Vacations. Food.
Is it better that way? Keep Writerland Clean? Is that our motto? Writerland is the place I belong. With a few exceptions, it’s my favorite place.
When I took a breath and a step back (which required assistance), I realized that none of the things I read about on any of these bios are things I wished I had done. Ever. Not one. None of them interested me, they just impressed me. And there’s a difference.
Your path, my path, his path, her path. It doesn’t matter how we differ as writers, what matters is what makes us the same. That’s the secret sauce for the writing life. That it is a great equalizer. (So go! Climb your mountain! Sail your seas! I’ll be right here when you get back!) And all that good stuff is exactly what I remembered after letting off some of my under-achieving steam with the help of a wonderful writer friend. One with a Ph.D.
But we didn’t talk about that.
* I am fully aware I did not spend my life doing nothing. I am proud of the kids I raised, the person I am, the things I’ve done. But now I have to go dig a well in my backyard for underprivileged suburban bunnies. Cya.