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Racontesse Musings… Pity Reads, Pity Reviews

‘Eye-rollingly obvious’ – the first bad review

It was harsh. Two stars and a damning commentary. To summarise the review, it argued that my stories were predictable and heavy-handed. It was cringe-worthy and shocking. I kept revisiting it and working through the comments to understand what I'd done wrong. I had completely underestimated the Goodreads’ warning that their reviewers are passionate and honest. Sometimes brutal.

There is a dash of 'emperor’s new clothes' about reviews from friends and associates. People are kind and supportive, they want to see your work succeed, despite their own tastes and sensibilities. It's no secret that I'm living with MND. It's a harsh companion and nearly every aspect of my life has changed. But one of my biggest fears is that friends read my work out of pity. That they write kind reviews because they want to ease the horror of my living with a life limiting disease. I don't want that, it's important my work stands for itself whether it's judged to be good, bad or indifferent. I'd never want anyone to pity read my stories. And definitely not write a pity review.

It's horrible to read a bad review but writers and artists have to let their work go to live an independent life, one separate from its creator; the comments and reviews entirely stand apart. I write what interests me and explore it to the utmost of my ability. I can't do anymore than that – I have no control over the judgements of others and am happy to see my stories take their place in the world and dearly hope they are appreciated for themselves.

Sarah Gray

6 July 2020

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