Am I my book? Are we the things we make?
Of course I’m not, of course we’re not.
Just try telling that to my psyche.
Yesterday I read some early customer reviews of my novel on Amazon. There are four of them, and they are overwhelmingly positive. One of them, however, mentioned what the reviewer considered to be a few flaws of my novel. As I read, each flaw he identified stung me deeply. Briefly, but deeply. Especially because I happen to agree with him on all counts.
Then it occurred to me for the first time: how will I respond if I get a really really bad review? One of those scathing ones? It could happen. I felt a terrible soul-piercing dread. I am not my book, I said to myself sternly. I am not my book.
I tried to imagine separating myself from my book, as if it were now just an object in the world (which it is) rather than an externalized element of my being (which it also is).
None of that worked.
It’s true, clearly, that I am not my book. Yet it’s just as clear to me that my book is of me, that despite being fiction it contains essential parts of my self. Pretending otherwise won’t help me weather criticism.
So I tried reminding myself that any review is only one person’s opinion, and opinions don’t matter.
Wait. Of course opinions matter. Why would I publish my novel if I didn’t want people to read it, think about it, form their own opinions about it?
So now I am trying a different tack: to remember that all things of this world contain some flaw. I may or may not agree with the perceived flaws readers will inevitably find in my book. But find them they will: we humans are a flaw-finding animal. As well as beauty-seeking, beauty-perceiving creatures.
And that is a thought that brings me peace.