On Saturday morning I was enjoying some time on YouTube and came across a video of an author speaking about his recent memoir. One of the topics that came up was how much of his own writing actually went into the memoir. He proceeded to talk about what a struggle this memoir was to write because he’s never been a writer and didn’t have any interest in being one. He’d basically forced himself to write and didn’t feel very good about it. The whole deal made him feel overwhelmed, and what was promised didn’t really come through for him. It turned out to be a negative experience overall.
This brought back memories to a memoir I reviewed over a year ago by one of my favorite musicians, and I started to think about some of the things I stated in my review.
So many thoughts spun around my head:
- Who are you to say that?
- This is his memoir, not mine.
- Oh, God…what if he’s actually read my review?
- Did I really write that?
- Well, that’s just great. He’s going to think I’m a horrible person!
- How could I have said that the book lacked something that I wanted? What do I really know about this person’s life anyway?
I used words such as ‘lacking’ and ‘dragged’ when talking about the things I didn’t like so much about the memoir. Needless to say, I went and changed some of the negative words and phrases I used to sound less harsh. After updating my review I literally sat back in my chair with both hands on my face and just let out a deep breath. Now, I’ll be truthful and say that the book was enjoyed immensely, and I rated it five-stars straightaway, but some of the things I was looking for simply weren’t there. Something expected was a more in-depth look at some of the relationships he was involved in.
I’ve talked about writing negative reviews before and how it’s the reader’s right to review the book truthfully. Now I’m thinking about how I don’t want to be over critical on memoirs, but I also don’t want to be over critical of my actual reviews of books either.
It’s days like this when I’m ready to just throw in the towel. What is it that makes me so critical of what I say about books anyway? I believe it’s because I’ve grown up knowing that opinions hurt, and I’ve been hurt in life by the things that other people have said. It irritates me when people don’t think before they speak, and they just rattle off whatever’s on their mind without thinking about how it will affect others. I want to treat people how I’d like to be treated. So, even though this was a positive review for a book, I’m starting to understand why some people choose to refrain from stating anything negative at all on their book reviews.
Should we as reviewers be more forgiving when reviewing memoirs? Do you ever second guess the thoughts you’ve shared on books in general? Are you a person who frequently changes your reviews? Do you ever worry about hurting an author’s feelings? Do you only share positive reviews?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about your book reviewing experiences. Thanks for reading.