2014 Festival of Books, Author SpotLight, News

Michael Perry on “Reading: Risk & Reward”


Michael PerryI just read a nasty, catty review of one of my books. And here’s the thing: The book isn’t even out yet.

So it goes. If you’re going to risk putting your work out there, you may be rewarded with someone telling you exactly what they think of it.

I wish I could be more blithe about these things—especially after some 25 years of flinging my typing to the four winds—but I’m not. Negative reviews and cranky comments unsettle far more than encomiums hearten me. It’s an ego problem (no matter how humble the words, they wouldn’t be out there had the ego not stamped the envelope) born of the fact that it hurts to invest time and craft and heart into a thing only to see it spattered with derisive spittle. There is this little wimpy part of me that wants to take my precious little words and go home. To curl up and quit.

But I don’t. Because whatever the risk, it isn’t as if anyone is pounding on my door at 3 a.m. to interrogate me. It isn’t as if critical disappointment in my character development choices is equivalent to actual trauma. It isn’t as if one out of five stars is a judgment leading to loss of freedom. It’s just that someone doesn’t care for the thing I’ve made.

As with most disappointments, time and perspective take the edge off. That, and the next deadline. There are more words to be written, no matter what someone thought of the last batch. And so the next day I am back at the desk, ready to try again. And maybe that’s the greatest reward to be found in the writing life: The chance to try again. And again. A fresh day, a fresh cup of coffee, and a fresh page.

I’ll take it. No matter what anyone says.

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