I caught a line in a movie that “rang a bell” with me. The line of dialog was about art, primarily the art of painting, but I think it applies to almost any piece of creative work. Obviously there are phonies out there and the honest among us will admit it. Let’s face it – some jerk picks up pieces of iron at the junk yard, welds them together and calls it, “The Renaissance of Woman.” The “certified” (there is no such thing) art critics rave about it and declare that you and I are too provincial or dumb or unwashed to appreciate “true art.” That’s just bullshit and, deep inside, everyone knows it but is afraid to offend someone so they keep it to themselves. Americans are, on the whole, just nice people.
The line in the movie that caught my attention was something to the effect that there is an unwritten contract between the art creator and the art owner. I know that is vague, but what it meant to me was that we all bring something of ourselves TO the art, which makes it unique to us. A case in point would be the reviews that we as writers get on Amazon. Don’t just glance at them, dig into them a bit and you will find a phenomenon that is fascinating. Now, I don’t mean that you should be influenced by reviews. Dismiss the five star ones as much as the one star ones when it comes to your writing. None of them really should affect your writing. They are, after all, just opinions and the person who gives you five stars today may have a fight with her husband the next day, and take it out on you with a one star review.
But consider this: A story or novel is nothing more or less than simply WORDS on a page. It is the attitude that the READER brings to the work that makes it what it is. Otherwise, why would there be 50 five star reviews and 50 three star reviews? Everyone is reading the same book.
One of my hobbies is looking at the “See my other Reviews” of the low rating reviewers of my work. What I often find is that a one star reviewer of my books has done the same thing to many other diverse works of various authors. This tells me that this person is just a bitter, sad, probably lonely, mad-at-the-world individual. This is a person who never spoke up at work, who got all the shitty jobs, and finally got fired or given a phony gold watch. They can’t take out their rage on those who did them wrong, so they pick up a book and already they think, “This is going to be a piece of crap” so their “rating” is already formed. On any given day this person may pick up your book and your fate is sealed. That is why I urge you to appraise ratings, but for God’s sake do not let them influence your writing in any way.
I have some favorite books that I often re-read. I love them. I approach them knowing that this book will bring me joy even though I may know it by heart. I bring MY attitude to the book and that is the other part of the contract between writer and reader.
The writer and the reader are a team. The writer has already made the kickoff. Now, the reader is carrying the ball.