Badly reviewed book? Write another one!
I typically avoid movie and concert reviews before I go to see a show. If I like a band or a movie trailer looks interesting, I decide to go – and I want to make up my own mind about the show, without the influence of others clouding things up ahead of time. I typically pay more attention to book reviews, perhaps because of the time investment required to read a book. Nevertheless, a reading recommendation from someone I know carries a lot more weight than a review from a stranger, regardless of the source.
Last night was one of those nights I was really glad not to have read the reviews ahead of time. We saw the first of two sold-out shows on U2’s Innocence and Experience world tour – and it was the most disappointing concert ever. This morning, as I looked through some of the reviews of other legs of this tour, the worst I saw described them as “good, not great.” The thing is, I believe they played really well last night. Bono almost certainly sang as well as he ever has, and The Edge’s iconic guitar was probably amazing.
It was the sound system that ruined things. When they were here in 2011, U2 played the football stadium. Last night, they played the basketball arena, but it seemed as though the sound was still set for the MUCH larger venue. I have no fear of loud – but this was so loud that the sound was completely distorted. Even when Bono was just speaking to the crowd, you could barely make out what he was saying.
I love this band – and I really, really wanted to enjoy this show. I just couldn’t do it. The visual elements were spectacular – but I don’t typically attend a concert for the visuals. I go for the music. Especially this band’s music. Clearly, the sound issue did not affect every concertgoer’s experience. One guy wrote on Twitter wrote that it was the best concert he ever saw. In fact, the whole arena cheered and held up their cell phone lights (21st century lighters) as the band played themselves off the stage with “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” But I wasn’t the only one who had a problem with the terrible sound. My husband and I overheard several conversations as we walked to the train about how bad it was. So where were the sound engineers? Why did some of us hate the sound quality, while others seemed not to even notice?
Here’s the thing. No artist, film director, sports team – or author – is going to hit it out of the park every time. Am I wickedly disappointed that U2’s bad show was here? Of course. Do I still love the band? Of course. And am I still glad I went last night? Of course.
I think our most important job as authors is to make the best books we can. But the more we write, the more we open ourselves up to criticism, and the more likely we are to eventually write a book that flops. For whatever reason, it misses the mark. What’s a book’s equivalent of a bad sound system? Some of our loyal readers will love us, no matter what. But others will notice – and perhaps comment on – the disappointing book. Remember, you didn’t set out to write a disappointing book – it happened in spite of your best efforts.
The question is, what will you do next? Will you close up shop, never to write another word? Of course not. You’ll take a day or two to lick your wounds. Analyze what you might have done differently. And then you’ll sit down at the computer (or pull out your yellow pad) and start your next book. Those loyal readers will still be there, anticipating your next release. And the readers you disappointed last time? Well, if they’re like this U2 fan, they will no doubt give you another chance because they know that one less-than-stellar book is the outlier. Your next one will again be outstanding.
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