It's a hard, brutal fact all writers have to accept. Some people aren't going to like your work. No matter how good it is, no matter how hard you've worked, someone is going to say it's terrible.
It's easy enough to say in theory that you can't please everyone, but when you're staring at a bad review, it hurts. It feels like you've failed.
There's this peculiar trait I have, and from talking to other writers, it's not unique to me. I once wrote an online story that had over seven thousand reviews. I got five really nasty ones. Guess which ones I could quote verbatim?
Why do we do this to ourselves? We hold ourselves to a ridiculous standard when we expect our work to be a hit with everyone. There has never been a writer who was successful with every reader. Look up any of your favorites on Amazon.com and you'll find people who think it's mediocre or just plain awful.
Compare our standards to other professions. Presidents are elected with less than 51% of the vote. No matter who is in office, you can expect at least 30% of the population to think they're doing an awful job. Most writers would be crushed if their work had 30% of readers who thought it was terrible.
Sort of puts it into perspective, doesn't it? No matter who you are in life, or what you do, someone is going to dislike it.
One of the worst parts about negative criticism is that we sometimes fear they're actually right, that our work is awful. And it's possible they are, but even if that's true, it's still okay. Failure is a part of leading a creative life. Sometimes, we're going to be unsuccessful. It's all part of the learning and growing process. Again, it's ridiculous to hold ourselves to a standard of perfection.
Ty Cobb had the best batting average of all time at .366. That means he had to walk away from the plate two out of every three times, not having a hit. The greatest quarterbacks in the NFL only complete their passes 66% of the time, and the best basketball player in the NBA hits only about 64% shots. Each of these players has to walk away at least a third of the time, knowing they've "failed." Yet these people are celebrated in the Hall of Fame as the greatest players of all time.
Keep this in mind: unlike those pro athletes, writers actually improve as they age. Our "average" will go up over time. Criticism can be valuable when it helps us improve our work, but sometimes, we just have to accept it as an inevitable part of the creative life.
You can see my other posts for the Insecure Writer's Support Group here, and visit the main blogroll here.