I have received over 50 comments, tweets and emails thanking me for my The Way I See It posts. I hope you enjoy this one as much as you did the others. If you do, please take a moment to drop by the comments section below and let me know.
Nothing can stop a writer in his tracks and keep him from reaching his goals like bad news: A one star review on your new novel; a turn down by an editor, or worse, an email telling you the publisher you had high hopes for passed on your new novel. Your novel has been on Amazon for 6 months with weak reviews and weaker sales... Bad news can be debilitating. Boyfriend From Hell has 90 ratings on Goodreads. Only two of those are 1 star ratings, yet when I read each of them I felt depressed, even though I know how important bad news is to my success.
That's right, bad news is important to your success. You cannot succeed without it. The problem with bad news is we take it emotionally, when in reality it's just information. I cannot tell you I am going to stop having an emotional response to bad news, but I can tell you that when I get past the emotional dip, I look at the bad news for what it is. In truth, bad news can be very good for you. It is the only news you get that you can learn and grow from.
Many of you know I spent much of my career writing and producing TV shows. In the late 90s I had written and produced a pilot for UPN ( a now defunct network). When pilots are complete, studios always put them before focus groups. I had done several pilots over the years and hated siting behind a one-way mirror while the people in the room who couldn't see me trashed my work. I told this to the president of UPN. "I know you like my pilot. Why do we have to do this?" I went on to tell him that I thought people in focus groups were on power trips.
He was a wonderfully understanding man, who took the time to tell me a story. When he was a producer at Warner Brothers he shot a pilot for a show. The focus group didn't like the pilot. They particularly didn't like the wife in the pilot. Instead of crying in his beer (which is what I would have done) the producer asked Warner Brothers for a little more money to shoot one scene. "Eric, we shot a scene like you guys always did on The Cosby Show," he told me. It was a very short bedroom scene with the husband and wife having fun with each other. They added the scene to the end of the pilot and put it before another focus group.
This time the pilot (as they say) tested through the roof. That pilot became a show called called Growing Pains which went on to have a long and successful run on ABC. If that producer had been me back then, that pilot would have become nothing. But the producer turned network head realized what we all need to realize--bad news is just information. If we listen to the bad news, rather than react to it, we can improve. I can talk to you about marketing until I am blue in the face, but if you're work needs improving, or your blurb needs improving, or your cover needs improving, or your marketing needs improving, nothing will change until you listen to the bad news.
Like I said earlier, good news is great, but bad news is the only news we can learn and grow from--just ask Michael Jordan, who was cut from his high school basketball team. Truth is, if he wasn't cut from that team, he wouldn't have done the work to become... well, Michael Jordan. MJ turned bad news into good news. You can do it, too. If you want to have a career as a writer, your success depends on doing what he did, on what I try to do--make bad news, good news. At least, that's the way I see it.