It's Not Me, It's You

Like most writers, I’ve had my share of bad reviews.¬†¬†I’ve also had more than my share of glowing raves.¬†¬†Early in my career, there was so little attention to my work that the good reviews could make my day.¬†¬†And the bad ones could send me to bed.¬†¬†Over the years, after having experienced the full range of dizzying highs and crushing lows the writing life can offer, I have found more balance.¬†¬†Like a kayaker in big water, I stay centered and keep on paddling – rain or shine.

A few years ago, I read a book called¬†The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.¬†¬†It changed my life.¬†¬†One of the agreements, maybe the most important for me was: Don’t take anything personally.¬†¬†¬†No matter what anybody does or says to you, even if they should go so far as to walk up to you and put a bullet in your head, has anything whatsoever to do with you or who you are.¬†¬†It’s all about them, about their thoughts, ideas, prejudice, and view of the world.¬†¬†If people say they love you, it’s about them.¬†¬†If people say they hate you, well, that’s about them, too.¬†¬†If you learn and internalize this (which – PS – is not easy), it can be very illuminating – and freeing.

Most people only deal with this on a small scale.¬†¬†You have your friends, family, neighbors, business associates, and random encounters with strangers.¬†¬†Most of us know that some people are going to like us, and some people are not.¬†¬†Likewise, we won’t like everyone we encounter.¬†¬†Maybe your coworker reminds you of someone who bullied you in high school; you dislike her without even knowing why.¬†¬†That’s about you. Maybe you think your friend is cheap and it makes you angry. Another person might admire her for her frugality.¬†¬†It’s all about the opinions we bring to the table.

As a writer, I am fortunate that my novels have found a large number of readers.¬†¬†And, guess what?¬†¬†Some people love my books. And some people don’t.¬†¬†Some of those people keep their opinions to themselves, some of them post on the bookseller sites, write their opinions on Facebook, send me personal emails, or write reviews in major national magazines and newspapers.¬†¬†Luckily,¬†most of the people who do this, have at least¬†something nice to say about my books.¬†¬†But not always.

If you’re true to yourself, as a person, as a writer – if you don’t chase trends or seek to please, you are likely to attract at least some negativity.¬†¬†I have found this to be true in my personal and professional life. Of course, it’s never a good day when someone says something negative about your work, but you tuck in and keep paddling.

When I sit down at my keyboard to work on my novel, I am my truest and most centered self.¬†¬†I don’t seek to please; just to tell the best story I can, to the best of my ability.¬†¬†I know some people are going to love it, and some are not.¬†¬†The world is impossibly complicated, and opinions vary wildly.¬†¬†So no matter what reviewers write about my books, I try to remember that it’s about them as much as it is about me.


  1. JC Gardner on March 21, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Ms. Unger, thank you! I am a woman of faith and also a brand new author. I mention my faith because I’m working with a PR firm and I was asked what books were my favorite. I am an avid reader and have been for over thirty years. One of my favorite books is “Beautiful Lies.” So, out of the blue, I decided to come to your site and check out your blog and the first one I read is this one. I needed to read this at this moment…that some will like the book and some will not. All I know is that I have been delaying my dream of becoming an author for years, always finding excuses not to pursue what was in my heart. Thank you for this message. Continue to be too blessed to be stressed.