As you start this week, may you know yourself well enough to be at peace when the naysayers come. May you rest easy when people claim you different than what they thought you to be, or when you didn’t provide what was expected because, well—what they expected was never yours to give.
Last week I did something “they” say you should never do—I read the three-star-and-under reviews on Amazon for Blue Bike. There’s not very many. But I still read them. And I let them sit with me for awhile.
(Just so you know, “they” say never to read those reviews to the authors, not to the readers—because the reviews are meant to help people make purchasing decisions; they’re rarely written to help the author become a better writer. And with a book, what’s done is done.)
I hadn’t wandered over to those reviews the entire month the book has been out in the world, because well? Who wants to read how you didn’t live up to someone’s expectations? There are few people in life brave enough (crazy enough?) to share their hearts till they bleed on paper, offer the sacrifice for sale online, and then welcome the people who spend time telling the world why they don’t like what you’ve offered.
But you know what? I found my response to those reviews so surprising, I’m still a little in shock at myself: I was honestly okay with them.
If I came to my book with the same expectations these readers have about me, I’d probably feel similar. Their two and three-star reviews honest-to-goodness didn’t really bother me.
Because here’s the common thread between those few reviews:
• This book wasn’t anything like my first book.
To that, I say, “Good. I’m glad you noticed that.” Because yep, it’s nothing like my first book. I didn’t want it to be. I plan to take my future writing on a pretty sharp departure from my initial published work. If readers want a follow-up to it, they’ll need to look elsewhere, because I’ve said all I could say about the nuts-and-bolts of organizing and decluttering.
(I still stand behind that book, but honestly—there’s nothing more I can say in that genre.)
• My family’s life seems more chaotic than simple, and it doesn’t fit their own definition of simple living.
From the beginning days of this blog, I’ve said repeatedly that the beauty of “simple living” is that there’s no one right way to do it (you’ll see this tomorrow, as we share a reader-submitted story). So if my life seems too uprooted, too travel-y? That’s okay. You are more than welcome to stay in one place. You don’t need a smartphone for your simple life? Awesome. But as an Internet-based small business owner, I can tell you it helps me simplify my life enormously (though yes, I’ve had to learn how to wield it wisely).
My life doesn’t have to fit someone else’s preconceived idea of what living simply “should” look like, because there’s beauty in different ways to live. I call my life simple because we are able to live life congruently with our passions, and a big part of that passion involves travel and cultural exploration.
So if my words bothered someone because it didn’t fit their definition of simple living? That’s okay. This offering of words is descriptive, not prescriptive. And in light of that…
• The book didn’t leave the reader with a lot of take-away.
This, too, was intentional. If a reader didn’t walk away with a ten-step process of what to do next, then my book actually served its purpose. I wrote so that the reader’s insides would stir and their minds left with ideas to percolate—and to actually free people from the idea that a life should look one particular way.
I want to honor people with their God-given intellect, and assume they can draw the conclusions they need and not bother with the things they don’t.
Almost every less-than-stellar review said that the book was beautifully-written, and to me, this is a high compliment to treasure. So if I step back, reflect on the critiques about my latest offering, and hear what’s really being said, I can rest well that I’m on the right path.
I love sharing stories, and I plan to do this more and more, in future books and on this blog. I’m at peace with this, because I know myself. That type of work fits well with my passions and my gifts, so I can sit happy with the pursuit of it, and not apologize for not meeting expectations I was never called to fulfill.
And may the same be true for you. May you study yourself, and may you know who you are well enough to be free from the guilt of not meeting expectations you don’t need to meet. Life’s too short to not be who you are.
Be free from the burden of meeting expectations that were never meant for you.