Choose Words Carefully: Life Lessons From an Angry Book Review
Have you ever written a book? Talk to many people, and you will frequently hear that, “write a book,” is written somewhere on their bucket list.
It’s a worthwhile goal. Our world could benefit from more good writers. Whose life hasn’t been changed by the words you read in a book? And that because the author took the time to choose their words carefully.
Book reviews are one of the most valuable things for an author. A good review will help grow an author’s brand and inspire others to read their work. However, a bad review can be devastating.
What do book reviews have to do with living with a chronic illness? Below we’ll discuss a few life lessons you can learn and why you should choose your words carefully. First, however, let’s get a little backstory about what inspired today’s post.
Quote of the Week
“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” – Yehuda Berg
Temping for an Author
Last summer, I was trying to make a success of working from home. Through that venture, I was partnered with an indie author and had the opportunity to work as his virtual assistant.
The whole experience taught me a lot about why to choose your words carefully. I was amazed at just how much time and effort goes into getting that final manuscript together. Whether it’s writing the first draft, the half-dozen edits it goes through, or the intense anxiety behind finally putting it out into the world, there’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into the process.
When it was over, I felt like I had helped to bring a child into that world. Now, I am very protective of that child.Start Today!
One Negative Woman
My time working with the author came to an end, but I still keep in touch and like to follow his progress. I’m always thrilled to jump on GoodReads or Amazon to see if there are any new reviews.
So it was that yesterday I was initially overjoyed to find that someone had posted a new review. It was exciting to see that it was more than just five words as so many of them are.
What I read, though, made my blood boil.
First, it was a 1-Star review, which I find hard to understand in most cases. How genuinely awful does a book have to be to get a one-star rating?
I know how good this book is. Surely, I thought, it was a mistake.
And It Gets Worse
But it got worse. The woman went on a tirade about how the author had no talent, could not write a coherent story, and that the book was the worst book she had ever read.
I can’t help but wonder if it’s the only book she’s ever read. In any case, she didn’t even read the whole thing. She discloses later in her verbal bashing that indeed she did not finish the entire book.
To an author, a finished book is like a precious baby. Months and years of time, energy, and tears are invested in the final product.
My rage boiled inside me the rest of the day. Though I wanted to, I was apprehensive about reaching out to the author. I didn’t want to be the one to ruin his day if he hadn’t already seen the review.
People Are Gonna Hate
Finally, last night, I couldn’t wait any longer. I dialed his number and began pouring out my fury as soon as he said, “hello.” In a few seconds, he was laughing, and I was utterly dumbfounded.
“How can you be laughing?” I demanded. “This woman is saying your book is the worst book ever. Worst book ever!”
“Yes,” he laughed at me. “And she won’t be the last one. Bad reviews are part of being a writer.”
I was in shock. As a writer myself, I plan to finish a manuscript later this year and get it ready for publication. It will be my first book.
As I thought about the unkind words in the review, it had me doubting everything about my future goals. Could I endure being told that my book was the “worst book ever”?
“I’ll tell you what,” my author friend continued. “Take a few minutes and go on Amazon and read the reviews for some of your favorite books. You’ll see just how common this is.”
No Talent Writers
Within minutes of getting off the phone, I had Amazon pulled up and began searching for books.
One of my all-time favorite books is Sphere by Michael Crichton, so I started there. I couldn’t believe I found lots of 1-star reviews stating the book was
“boring and unimaginative”
“a disappointing mess” and
“so bad that it actually hurt me to continue reading.” (Really?!)
Okay, so science fiction isn’t for everyone. Maybe this one was a fluke. Instead, I decided to choose something in the romance genre that everyone loved. My next victim was The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. Everyone loves that book. Or so I thought.
I headed over to its page next. Of the more than 2,000 reviews on Amazon, there were dozens of one-star reviews. Dozens!
Here are some of the awful things that foolish people wrote about this iconic book.
“So bad, I want my money back.”
“Void of all substance.”
“A very large letdown.”
“Worst romantic novel I’ve ever read.”
And there were more pages filled with the same negativity.
For me, there are no words. I just don’t get it.
What Can I Learn?
For most negative experiences in my life, I try to discern if there is anything I can learn from it. Sitting down at the keyboard, I started pounding out my thoughts, good and bad. What I came up with were four reasons why you should choose your words carefully.
Here are a few lessons that came to mind.
1. Our Words Matter
It’s prevalent in today’s world to throw words around with no thought. Even people in power are frequently degrading people in lower positions or of different races or nationalities.
Their defense, far too often, is that words don’t matter.
They are 100% wrong.
Words do matter, and they matter a great deal. It’s always important to choose your words carefully.
For instance, I don’t know the woman that left the terrible review of my friend’s book. However, her cutting and downright mean words have upset me most of my weekend.
Add to that, anyone else who goes to that book’s page will now see her contempt for the book, and many will then choose not to give that excellent story a chance.
Every day we have a choice as to whether we will use our words to build someone up or tear them down. Choose wisely. The person you tear down today might be the person you need to build you up tomorrow.
2. Words Posted Online Hurt Real People
The woman that left the negative review may be a fine person. She might be a hardworking mom who was having a tough day. I get that.
However, she forgot that her words were going to be read by a real person. If no one else reads a review, you can guarantee that the author, at least a new author with very few reviews, will read the words.
In her haste to be degrading, she gave no thought to the emotional damage she was doing to someone else. I want to believe the best in people, so I want to think that wasn’t her intent, but the damage is done nonetheless.
Those of us with chronic illnesses probably spend more time online than healthy people. Being confined to home doesn’t give us many other options to fill up our time.
It’s essential that you choose your words carefully in terms of what words you are putting out there. Tearing someone down on Twitter or Facebook is unacceptable, even if it’s a celebrity. That person may be nothing more than a digital user name to you, but there’s a real human on the other end. Choose your words carefully.
3. You Can Choose How You Will Respond
The author, in this case, has a great attitude. If he read the review at all, he chose not to let it bother him. Some stranger was pouring out poison, but he decided not to drink it.
That’s a lesson I’m trying to learn myself. Obviously, I’m still working on it.
You have the same choice every day. People will say hurtful things to and about you when you are living with a chronic illness. You may not be able to stop the words, but you can choose how much power they have in your life.
4. Someone Will Always Be Negative
The last lesson is a reminder to be realistic. We live in an angry world. Movies, music, and TV shows try to make us believe that attacking others with our words is the way to go.
Influenced by such a world, some people find their joy in destroying others. Knowing that fact, it’s essential for you to prepare yourself.
People are going to say dumb things. They are going to be mean and degrading. If great authors like Michael Crichton and Nicholas Sparks aren’t unscathed, then certainly everyday people like you and me should expect the same.
There is going to be someone who doesn’t believe that mental illness is a real illness. Some won’t want to admit that you are chronically sick because you don’t look like what they imagine an ill person should look.
The only person that has to know the truth about you is you. Own your truth and say goodbye to those who choose to be negative. If you respond at all, choose your words carefully.
As was stated in last week’s post, surround yourself with positive people as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to cut out of your life those that want to tear you down.
To close out today, our goal for this week should be two things.
1. Take time to choose your words carefully before you use them.
2. Determine how you will respond to the words said to and about you.
There’s no way of knowing the true intent of the woman who wrote my friend’s review. If her intent was solely to damage my friend, well, I believe wholeheartedly that the universe will reward her for her kindness in turn. On the positive side, she at least taught us how important it is to choose our words carefully.
If you can, please do one more thing this week. Take a moment to make an author’s day. Browse Amazon or GoodReads for a book you’ve loved and write a review. It’s another way to add more positive to the world.
If you haven’t read a book recently, pick out a great one and read it. I recommend both of the books listed above. Just be sure to leave a review.
You can choose your words carefully and decide to be better. I know that all of you will make the right choice.
Thank you for listening to my rant this week. Go forth and heal yourself and the world with your carefully chosen words.
You can do it. I believe in you.
Until next time, keep fighting.
This is excellent advice. I used to teach English Composition and Creative Writing online and we were told to always be aware that a real person was on the other side of the computer screen. Our feedback had to be actionable and not just critical. Sometimes, though, in our virtual world people forget that others really do exist on the other side of that computer screen. It hurts when words are just carelessly thrown about. It is one thing to be specific and say “As a reader, I would like to have seen more evidence-based data to in support of the conclusion” and it is quite another to say “the writing was atrocious!” What was exactly atrocious? How could the writing have been improved?
I attended a writer’s group for awhile and stopped going when some of the members were just downright out mean-spirited in their critique of a script I had written. They failed to give me any constructive suggestions at all. They were just mean-spirited. Sometimes, no matter what we do there will always be cruel and nasty people. The thing is to not let ourselves get dragged down into the mud with them. I didn’t let them steal my joy; I found another writer’s group where the members are kind and helpful. They will always be the kind and helpful. Thank Goodness!
That sounds like a great group. There’s nothing better than friends who can offer encouragement and constructive criticism. Thanks so much for leaving your thoughts in a comment. I appreciate your support.
You’re very welcome. Thanks for your encouragement, as well.