In the past–on this very website–I have written about why I stopped reading reviews of my work. I still stand by that post. Reading reviews can take an author down a dark rabbit hole. It’s best to let readers read, write their reviews, and everyone goes on about their day.
However, there’s another reason I don’t read my reviews. One that I hadn’t felt comfortable mentioning in the past. Mostly because I was worried that people would think I was blowing smoke up my own ass. Of course, over the last few years, I’ve realized that people are going to think whatever it is they want to think and there’s nothing I can do about it.
All I can do is be as genuine as possible and not worry about what anyone thinks.
As the great RuPaul says: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Right?
Over the last two years, I have received emails, DMs, and direct tweets from wonderful readers. Okay, I’ve also received insults, critiques, and even death threats. But…whatever. I want to talk about the nice things.
The nice things are one of the things that keep me from reading my reviews.
Recently, I got an email from a reader I had never had an interaction with before. They shared with me that they had read BETWEEN ENZO & THE UNIVERSE, that they enjoyed it, and that they had recently experienced a loss in their life. They told me about the considerable grief they were going through and how they had “asked the universe to look after” their loved one.
Well. I spent the next twenty minutes, staring at my laptop screen, utterly unable to form a thought.
Doing what I do–like every other creative–I express feelings, thoughts, and ideas through art. Sometimes I put into words what a reader has never been able to fully express–if I’m lucky. And this resonates with readers. It makes them feel like they know me. In turn, they reach out and share some of the most intimate moments of their lives.
Those moments are joyful, hilarious, sad, heartbreaking, awe-inspiring…they make me feel so honored.
To have a stranger feel that they know you so well simply through your art that they would share something so meaningful from their existence is profoundly humbling. Knowing a stranger trusted you with something so precious…there aren’t words.
I go to bed many nights with prayers for many of my readers in my head. I, too, ask the universe to look after people. Even ones I have never met.
Because of all of this, I often feel a great sense of responsibility when I am writing a story that might deal with heavy topics. I often wonder how things will read to this type of person and that type of person. Am I doing this justice? Am I fucking this up? It can be a lot to have on the mind when I am trying to write a story as I imagined it.
However, I know that as a creative, I have to write a story as it is meant to be written. I have to do justice to the truth as I see it. I can’t worry about whether or not a story will resonate the right way with everyone–because no story is completely universal.
Sure, we can all find something in nearly every story that we can relate to, but we often don’t feel like every story is in complete alignment with who we are every time we pick up a book, right?
I feel that if I read reviews that were far too kind, far too intimate, that they would ruin my ability to write honestly.
I’ve struck up friendships with many readers–most via email and DMs or just on Twitter where we annoy each other hourly. And I cherish every one of those connections. Even if we never meet in person, I understand the responsibility I have when it comes to all of you sharing your kindness, honesty, friendship, and lives with me.
I hope we’re all friends and sharing our lives for years to come.
But I have to keep that out of my head when I write. I don’t want those feelings to cloud the stories. The responsibility I have means I owe you all much more than that.
Please keep reviewing my work–get the word out so more people can join our little cult. And please, please, please, keep sharing your lives with me. To know that you feel you know me because of my work is a blessing.
And it’s the truth.
Maybe I am not all of my characters exactly. Maybe my characters do and say and think things I don’t necessarily agree with in real life. Maybe a lot of suspension of disbelief is needed to enjoy some of my stories.
But all of those stories come from my heart and a desire to understand the human condition better.
My stories are all of us. Because my stories are, at their heart, about us. Humans. Finding love. Experiencing grief. Suffering loss. Grasping onto hope. And asking the universe to look after the people we love.
The universe isn’t always fair, but it always delivers its messages.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,