Getting a bad review is like going through a bad break-up. I’ve been trying for more than a week to figure out how to express my feelings on the topic and that’s the metaphor I finally came up with. It’s all there: the hope for something good, the realization of how horribly wrong it’s all gone, and the ripple effect of depression, self-doubt, and binge eating of ice cream that mark both review and break-up.
The Bad Review was painful. It wasn’t just that the reviewer disliked my book. That I could handle. It’s that she accused me of stealing the story from a tv show. She used the word “plagiarism”, incorrectly at that. Like any bad relationship, she was only seeing what she wanted to see, she ignored the details that didn’t support her argument, and she was more interested in hurtful recriminations than sorting out misunderstandings. It really, really hurt. If I’m being honest, I’m still not over it.
But this blog post is not about The Bad Review, it’s about the much more entertaining story of The Bad Break-Up and everything that I learned as a result of it.
So a couple of years ago, December of 2006, to be exact, I stared dating this guy. Let’s call him Bo. I thought Bo was awesome. Honestly, I thought I was going to marry him. He could carry on a conversation with the best of them. We seemed to enjoy a lot of the same things. And best of all, he was actually interested in me!About three months into dating, I began to notice that things were becoming more awkward. Distant, if you will. But Bo never said anything was wrong, soooo…. I tried to express my feelings, tried to put things into words and talk out the issues and the problems I was having. Strangely enough, that only seemed to make things worse. Bo clammed up even more, grew even more distant.
(It was a classic amateur mistake, by the way. How was I supposed to know that men hate talking about their feelings?)
Another three months passed. I grew more and more insecure as I got less and less in the way of response or support from dear old Bo. Then came an incident where I asked if he would get tickets to something, and rather than picking up a pair he told me how much they cost and implied that if I was going, I would go alone. It dawned on me that Bo didn’t want to be seen out in public with me.
That was the last straw. I called him up on a Tuesday night (it would have been impossible to get together with him in person because of his job) and broke it off. I told him that I didn’t feel like he really wanted to be in a relationship anymore and that he had actually broken up with me about three months before but didn’t have the balls to tell me. Guess what? He said that, yeah, I was right.
So I broke up with Bo. Whew! I washed my hands of the whole thing. I dodged a bullet. … so explain to me why I then spiraled into a crippling depression that had me in tears on a daily basis for about eight months? I broke up with him, for gosh sakes! Bo moved on. He was dating someone else before the end of the month. Why was I the one eating my heart out?
Ah yes, a bad review is like a bad break-up. I wrote the damn book! I spent years pouring myself into it. I drew from a lot of sources of inspiration, but it was only that. Inspiration. I didn’t steal anything. Plenty of people really like the book. One trollish reviewer who, as it turns out, is a fan of the tv show in question and, I think, a member of a site that writes fan fiction for the show should not have the ability to negate all my hard work and genuine creativity.
One man who was totally wrong for me and fickle in the best of times shouldn’t have the power to ruin my life for eight months. He got engaged to that girl he started dating three weeks after we broke up, by the way. Yep. I was devastated. They got married, had a baby, and, as a little birdie told me, just got divorced. I made a good decision to break up with him, and yet I still see that as the darkest time in the last ten years of my life.At heart I think it comes down to the fact that when we love something or someone we want it to work out, no matter what. When we invest our emotions so deeply into something, be it a book or a boy, it is crushing when it falls apart. We want to be loved. Like, a lot. We tie our identity and our worth as a person into what someone else thinks of us, how much they love us. But some relationships just aren’t meant to be.
Ironically enough, it was writing that pulled me out of the depression of that bad break-up. Even more ironically, it was the same book that received The Bad Review. I wonder what that reviewer would think to know that so many of the parallels they saw came from the emotions I felt at having been devastated by a man. Ultimately it doesn’t matter.
So how will I recover from The Bad Review? By writing, of course. And next time I have a female villain I know what I’ll be naming her.
Okay, that’s me. But what do you think? What’s worse, a bad break-up or a bad review?