Controlling the Knee-Jerk Response

Some years ago, my Curmudgeonly Husband got hit up by a very earnest telemarketer. Now, in my opinion, CH has a skewed reaction to telemarketers. While my inclination is to say “Please take me off your call list” and hang up, CH is just as likely to engage them in some kind of bizarre role-playing conversation. In this instance, however, the caller was representing a construction supply company that carried products CH was actually interested in.

CH asked the caller about a specific product he’d been unable to locate. The telemarketer, obviously new to his job, had to struggle to find out if he had the right thing in the catalog. The product he found didn’t fit CH’s needs, so CH said, “No. I’m sorry, that’s not going to work.”

The telemarketer’s response? “Yeah? Well f**k you!”

(Clearly this guy needed a few hints about how to handle rejection, a little remedial customer service training, and perhaps some serious anger management therapy.)

It’s very difficult to separate your work – whether it’s promoting a creative product like a book or selling a line of construction supplies – from yourself. When someone doesn’t like your book, they’re not saying they don’t like you, despite how connected you might feel to what you’ve written. If everyone liked the same kind of book or movie or TV show, we’d only have one kind of book and movie and TV show. (Well, some critics, bemoaning the lack of originality in movies, may say that we do, but that’s another argument.)

no_broccoliFor instance, once I became a voracious reader of romance, I became addicted to the hero’s point-of-view. Consequently, I no longer read books in first person POV. Not because those books are bad, or because thousands of other people don’t like them, but because my reading time is limited, and I prefer to read those stories that have the qualities that I prefer. Likewise, I find present tense extremely off-putting, so I won’t read books written in present tense. (Yeah, that makes me one of the only people in the world who hasn’t read The Hunger Games, but I just can’t get past the first page.)

We need to face the fact that tastes differ. Not everyone likes broccoli. Not everyone likes Tom Cruise movies (um…that would be me). Not everyone will like what you write.

You can’t control what other people think of your work because people’s opinions are subjective – that’s why they’re called opinions and not facts. But you can control your own work. Hone your craft. Write the best book you can.

Some people may not like it, and that’s okay — even expected — so try not to take it personally.

And whatever you do, no matter how you might be tempted, restrain yourself from saying “F**k you.”

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Posted on July 24, 2014, in EJ Russell and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Disagree on the broccoli, agree on the Tom Cruise movies. :-)

    Rejections are always hard for me, but if they are helpful, I’m grateful someone took the time to help me become a better writers.

    -Asa

  2. Yesterday a customer went on and on raving about our new lemon cantaloupes. Delicious, she told me. You have to try them! Today a customer informed me that she and a few friends tried one, and all agreed that it was the most horrid thing they’d ever tasted.
    Not merely bad mind you, but beyond bad. Downright gross. we all need to be reminded now and then of how different people’s tastes are and to not take it personally. Great post Ellen!

  3. I try to keep my mind open, but I’m just never going to like broccoli :) But I’d still like to write a bacon book. Everyone likes bacon!

  4. Yourpost is right on the money, Ellen. Great advice!

  5. Awesome post! But I have to know, did CH let it go or let the company know some negative feedback?

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