It’s time for another installment of the “Letter to Myself” series in which authors write letters to their younger writers selves giving encouragement, advice, and words of warning. Today’s letter comes from one of my favorite author/illustrators, the hilarious Adam Rex.
Dear Younger Me,
DON’T READ YOUR REVIEWS. I hope I’ve caught you early enough. The first book you’ll illustrate (The Dirty Cowboy, by Amy Timberlake) will garner pretty much universally positive reviews, and win a bunch of minor awards, and this will ruin you. You’re going to assume it’ll always be like this, and you’ll start Googling yourself to the point of blindness. Metaphorical blindness.
Just know that, in time, you will long for the good old days when reviews came to you at a trickle–a handful of clippings from your publisher now and then–and a reader had to care enough to post an actual letter. Do you know that feeling you get now when you’re just out on the street, minding your own business, and some anonymous critic shouts “nerd” from a moving car? Or something disparaging about your outfit? Now imagine that’s the only outfit you own. You have to wear it all the time, like one of the Castaways. You’re Ginger, and you’re only strolling on the beach, hurting no one, wearing that dress that says “U.S.S. Minnow” across the bust which you obviously made yourself, and in fact the only things you even have to wear are the Minnow dress and the “Happy Birthday Mister President” dress, and then a bottle washes up on shore, and there’s a message inside, and KittyKat93 from Tulsa, Oklahoma says “Nice outfit, Ginger lol.”
That’s the internet.
Understand that your brain, which is not as smart as you think it is, will file the anonymous car-shouters in the same cabinet where it keeps a review from The Washington Post. And that it will highlight any and all negative passages with ink so ostentatiously yellow that you will be able to read them in your dreams. The part of your brain which currently sucker-punches you with humiliating junior high school memories during random quiet moments is going to discover its true calling after people start publishing your fiction. It’s really going to come into its own. You know the part of the brain I’m talking about. It’s located in your gut, despite all medical evidence to the contrary.
At the age of thirty-seven you will institute a No Reviews Policy. It’s going pretty well. You’re learning to concentrate on how you feel about your writing and looking forward to a day when you can hear the word “Goodreads” without getting sick to your stomach. But there’s going to be a lot of years of existential angst before you get here and you know what? You’re going to really love your wife (if you’re not married to her already), and she doesn’t deserve all that garbage. So maybe never get in the habit of Googling yourself in the first place and save us all a lot of headaches. Literal headaches.