Writer's Workbook: How to Take a Punch (a.k.a. a bad review)

June 23, 2015

Last week I finished reading  I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like, a memoir by the folk singer and songwriter Todd Snider.  My husband was an entertainment reporter for our college newspaper.  One day he received a Todd Snider album to review and we've been listening to Snider ever since.  Snider's lyrics are intelligent and funny, plus he tells a great story on stage.  Here's an example.

(This is a long track but if you've got ten minutes to spare, you won't be sorry. Pinky promise.)

Anyhow, one chapter of Snider's book is called "Come On In, The Water's Freezing."  It's about receiving bad reviews.  Here's an excerpt.

When my first record came out, I saw a review of myself.  The writer began with, "I hate Todd Snider."  That was the first line of the review....It gets uncomfortable when someone makes me feel like what I'm doing isn't worthwhile or of value.  But here's the thing: they get to say whatever they want to say to us.  Even the guy who threw a beer at you paid to get in.  You get to keep his money, and sometimes you get to drink the rest of his beer for free...Even when that beer bottle seems to be coming at you, it's not yours to know why it's coming at you.  Sing.  That's yours.  That's what you want to do, right?  Sing.  Don't be a bitch.

"Sing," Snider says. "That's yours."  He's right.  Whatever reviewers say about you, whatever gossip you hear about yourself, whatever jerks tell you to your face and cowards say behind your back, keep singing.  That power will always be yours.

Here's another excerpt from the book to keep in mind.

Making up songs, critics will tell people that you've done well or poorly.  Again, these are the critics that you have asked--begged, really--to have an opinion.  And then they give you one, if you're lucky.  A bad review is a good review. The worst review they can give you is no review at all, and that's the one they give almost everybody.

For more information on Todd Snider, please visit his website or order his book.  For my thoughts on dealing with rejection both literary and otherwise, click here.

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