on Reviews, Comments and Publishing
How to get and give reviews on published work.
Suddenly, out of the blues — maybe as a result of a collective consciousness -, I had some new reviews on my books (on amazon). Although they’re quite positive, I noticed that each reader had a different point. But I had noticed this before, since I received several reviews in private form / email. Readers from different parts of the world, with different backgrounds, parameters, etc
I use to say that the beauty of life lies on its own diversity.
First of all, when you publish a book, or even a short story on internet or an artwork you have created, you must be prepared for any kind of comment. Of course there will always be frustrated haters as hobbyists, but those you shouldn’t give a dam. You should pay attention to the serious ones, no matter if they are positive or negative. They are from your readers, and each one have a different education, culture, background, parameters.
Of course that if you ask your grandmother or lover what they think about your text, they will love it… because it’s yours. So those don’t really matter, unless you need to raise your ego. There’s a very funny and curious Spanish saying for when you praise yourself though: “se nota que no tienes abuela”… (it’s obvious that you don’t have a grand mother). This because grand mothers have this task of love everything you create. Mine was the opposite though: she was always very honest, raw and straightforward. She didn’t mind to point out the flaws of my work, as for her, I would only grow up facing the truth. She had very high (literary/art/cultural) parameters as well, so she often knew what she was talking about.
As I wrote in the book “I, Energy”, you can’t allow a review about your work to affect you personally. It’s about your work, not about you. Unless they say that you could do better if you weren’t that lazy. Then, you should listen and be more brain/mind active. (Brain/Mind laziness it’s the worst form of being lazy). But even though: any critic should be taken to grow up as creator, no matter if you’re writer or visual artist.
We often create as a way of expressing ourselves, in the most honest way. Or at least I do. I don’t think on how it will be accepted while writing or creating an artwork. I simply focus on what I want to express while creating it.
Obviously, any artwork or piece of writing (as well as music, for example) will have different reactions from the viewers/readers/listeners. And I tested it with some of my photographs. The exact same photograph can be taken as awful to one viewer, and to other the loveliest thing they ever saw. For one it can be a source of inspiration, for other a nightmare that will take their sleep away.
Talking about photography, yesterday I posted that I was missing shooting the series “B Shot by a Stranger” about loneliness of screenagers. Today I woke up and found this response from one of the volunteers I shot few years ago… and this is the reason why I miss it: the wonderful people I’ve met through the years shooting this series.
If I show my writings to someone much more cultivated than me, someone with much higher parameters, they might say that my writings are terrible. If you’re a linguistic puritan and not at all into creative writing, you might find my writings the worst thing ever. If you’re more open minded and culturally curious, you might love the pieces I write. But then, my books are now for sale in public… so I don’t know who my readers are. And as I said, until now the reviews have been great, in fact better than I expected. But being honest, I had few weeks ago an email from a reader who took the time to insult me because of the book. I’m glad though that she insulted me explaining why… and so I understood her point of view and replied to her. It happened that she misunderstood one sentence at the beginning, so the whole book was read under that misunderstanding. Which became the source of her rage. After I explained, she wrote me back apologising: she read it again and found a completely different meaning in the concept.
So, do never take the reviews personally: they are about the work you created. And you should get detached from them the moment you make them public. You should in fact allow yourself to grow up your mind by reading them, and try to understand why this reader mention this or the other one mentioned something completely different.
Yesterday night a friend called me from another corner of the world saying that he would love to read my 2 books now that he has more spare time and finished the pile of books he had, so he wanted to know which one he should read first, me knowing him. I explained that they were completely different as writing exercises.
One, more autobiographic: “The Sacred Book of G”, is written as stream of consciousness, filled with metaphors and lost random thoughts about life and the whole process of rebuilding my memory after the 3 days of brain death that I went through. Knowing him, I’m sure he will love to read it.
However, the other is something completely different: “I, Energy” is about finding peace within yourself to share in a collective consciousness, with some actual short stories, but mostly about how to understand Buddhism, how to heal, how to be mindful, following some new scientific concepts that are finally backing old shamanic and Buddhist practices and how to be connected with Earth.
So while “The Sacred Book of G” was an exercise that was also therapeutic for me, the “I, Energy” is a book to help you on your life’s journey. One was a psychological and philosophical moment of deep pleasure, my home while writing it; the other is for you, for your pleasure, for your growth as person.
Of course that I reached different readers, and some loved the first one and not so much the second one… some other readers found “The Sacred Book of G” too deep and unease to read, but found “I, Energy” very mind opening.
When you publish a book or an essay, you must be prepared for anything. You don’t need to put a thick shield to protect you: but you can’t take comments personally, or as a personal attack. And giving an honest and straight forward review is sometimes more important than the lame ones who say “lovely” or “amazing” just to please.
I don’t do reviews unless asked by the authors/creators… and when I do, if I like it and I’m about to praise their work, I might do it publicly. If I don’t like or don’t find it interesting or even find it bad, I do it privately.
Another curious detail… some time ago a friend asked me to do a review on his portfolio. I said ok, sure, let’s go for it. Then he replied that he wanted to pay because if I would do it for free he wouldn’t take it as professional. This makes all the sense, in fact everything should be an ex-change, in this case: a service ex-changed by money. Money is not a dirty word, it’s something that flows. When I do it for free, people expect me to praise their egos, which is something that I don’t do: if you want a review, you must be prepared to accept my most honest opinion. And that’s also the reason why I don’t express my opinion when you don’t ask for it directly. If you expect me to raise your ego, better ask an opinion to your grandmother, or lover.
Now, don’t forget another important detail: the fact that a reader/viewer doesn’t like your work, it doesn’t mean that is bad. Or vice versa: a reader can enjoy it, even though it’s a bad work. How many literary works are terrible and became best sellers? I can think of several right now. But I might be very demanding because I started reading the best literature when I was a child.
What I mean is that, and take for example ancient art… I don’t like most of the aesthetic of Catholic sacred art… I don’t even like Leonardo daVinci’s Last Supper… however; it’s an astonishing painting.
So one thing is taste/aesthetic that can vary depending on your cultural background, and the other thing is parameters of quality.
Keep this in mind when you give or get reviews:
— Separate always — work and author.
– Separate always — personal taste and parameters of quality.
And to finish this… before you publish your work, be sure that you’re emotional detached to it, and it’s a good one, not because it’s about your cat that you love but might say nothing to the reader/viewer, but it’s a work worth reading by itself.
Does it make sense to you?
Preview and Purchase now:
“The Sacred Book of G” is a stream of consciousness, a thought provoking intimate journal written by Gonzalo Bénard. After 3 days of brain death he reborn with a deep loss of memory. He reborn without any sense of his past — of his own roots — of his own self. Before that he’d spent his time creating defences to disguise his autism. He had lost it too. New born G had no memory and no defences.
“I, Energy” is a book on Cosmic Consciousness, Quantum Physics and Old Shamanism written by Gonzalo Bénard who not only lived in Himalayas with shamans and in a Buddhist monastery but also in the Western Sahara with old shamans. A guide on healing and transcendental meditation and how you can master your own mind, leading yourself the collective consciousness.
Gonzalo Bénard is a lecturer, author, tutor of autistic teenagers, and a visual artist.His photography has been part of the annual programs of several universities around the world, mainly about the seriesOneness, Nudes and B Shot by a Stranger, and are in several private and public art collections such as Museum of Serralves, Cultural Centre of Cascais or Sir Elton John’s.
His photographs are also being used in Hollywood productions and TV series and you can see his work of photography at his webpage.
Follow @GBenard on twitter for daily updates.