I know I’m not supposed to look at reviews. Everybody tells me that, and yet I can’t really look away. I hop over to Goodreads once or twice a month to see if anyone’s had anything new to say, and I google the book once a week or so to see if anything’s been posted about the book. Of course, maybe I’ve been doing this because the response has been so good. If all I got were negative reviews, I’d probably give up checking after a while.
The thing is, I know reviews are just opinions, and opinions aren’t authoritative for anyone other than the one giving that opinion. But I write reviews of other books and movies, and they’re something I’m generally interested in on the whole. When I go to buy something, user reviews factor heavily into my final choice. In fact, these days, I’m much less likely to buy something in a brick and mortar store, just because I can’t check reviews before I buy. (I really need to get a smartphone and join the 21st century. I just haven’t yet . . .)
So since I like other people’s reviews, it only stands to reason that I like to peek in at my own reviews now and then. There have been a few one and two star reviews here and there, but after 101 ratings on Goodreads, Vodnik is still pulling a very pleasing 4.02 rating. Most people who read the book like it, and that makes me happy, although I know it’s setting myself up to be unhappy when most people *don’t* like a book I write.
That said, I was floored when Vodnik was selected as one of the 10 Westchester Fiction Award winners. Not that I don’t think Vodnik is awesome and totally deserving of any award out there. But rather, just being on anyone’s “Top 10 for 2013″ list is incredible. There are so many great books out there. (I have a hard time picking a top ten for anything. It’s so final.) I’m very grateful and honored the awards committee loved the book that much.
I know as a writer (and in life in general, for that matter), we’re often looking for external validation, no matter how hard we might try not to. (At least, that’s true for me.) We’ve finished a book. Great. But we’ll know we’ve “made it” when we have an agent. We’ve got an agent. Great. But we’ll know we’ve “made it” when we’re published. We’re published. Great. But we’ll know we’ve “made it” when __________. You can insert any arbitrary marker there, and no matter what it is, there’ll always be something bigger and better to stretch for.
It’s good to stretch. It helps us do better, I think. But I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll say it again. Writing isn’t really about a destination. If you treat it like that, it’s like looking for the end of the rainbow. It’s always out of reach. It’s a journey, and there are mile markers along the way, but you’re driving because you love the ride and enjoy the process.
I’ll say this much, though. This was a very nice mile marker to drive by. Many thanks again to the awards committee. It’s a great honor. And thanks to everyone else for all the wonderful messages of congratulations you’ve been sending. A happy day, indeed!