When I started this game I told myself, very sternly, that I wasn’t going to pay any real attention to reviews, because if you believe the good ones you have to believe the bad ones, and in any case it’s bad for your ability to self-edit to take the kind words of friends too seriously.
Piffle. Absolutely true, of course, but at the same time – piffle.
Good reviews are important, I know, in a business sense. There is no advertising in the world as good as one heart-felt and unsolicited review in the right place, but if you think that’s why they’re important to me I can only assume that you’ve never been on this side of the keyboard.
The eminently quotable Mark Twain once said that he could live for two months on a good compliment. I don’t know if I’d go quite that far, but a good compliment is like your first kiss . . . well, not quite. The memory of a good compliment is like the memory of your first kiss: you try to walk around sensibly the next day, carrying on with mundane things, but you know you’ve got a silly smile glued to your face and the memory ambushes you at odd quiet moments, leaving you weak-kneed and a little dizzy and thinking ‘gosh . . . they said that’.
I hope I never get blasé about good reviews. They mean so much, and I’d hate to stop feeling this way about them. If they are salted with constructive criticism, all the better, but let’s be honest: constructive criticism may be harder to come by then hen’s teeth and rocking horse poo, it may be vitally necessary to one’s development as a writer, it may be what I say, and earnestly mean when I say it, that I want above all else – but it doesn’t glue that silly smile to my face, and I can’t hold it to my heart like the memory of a kiss.
So yes, I read my reviews, and I read them, rashly perhaps, with all my defences down. I’m going to get hurt that way one day – but that won’t last, and the risk’s worth it.