So here’s the place where I admit it – I read reviews of my work.
Comics, theater, comedy – I’m writing for audiences, so finding out what anyone in the audience experienced is valuable to me. I’m baffled by people who claim to not read their reviews. How do you know if your work is affecting people the way you want it to? How do you know your social satire is not being perceived as actual racism, sexism, etc.?
Granted, in theater (especially comedy), you get an immediate sense of what the majority think. But that’s only in the broad strokes. And when you’re writing for print – you have no idea how people are reacting in the privacy of their homes.
You (theoretical audience) may be asking “who claims they don’t read their reviews??” Plenty of people. Across art forms. These people say it like a badge of honor, or a testament to their unassailable certainty in their artistic vision. But to me? It’s more of a declaration of contempt for your audience. If not contempt, at the very least, then it’s ambivalence. WHY WOULDN’T YOU CARE IF YOUR WORK IS DOING WHAT YOU INTENDED IT TO DO???
Perhaps I should make the important clarification: there is a difference between reading a review and believing they are right. I’m not advocating changing everything you do in response to criticism. God knows there are plenty of times that critics don’t even agree with each other. But reading several reviews will give you a sense of the whole. The strengths, weaknesses, gaps, and redundancies really worth addressing (or at least learning from) are the ones that emerge repeatedly across the reviews.
To a certain extent, every audience member is an outlier. This is doubly true for reviewers. Each individual will have an important detail they missed the first time around, or personal emotional baggage that’s going to filter the actual content of your work into something you can’t predict. And to complicate things more, reviewers aren’t even there to enjoy your work (if they do, that’ s a plus). But they are there to have Something To Say about it. So know that. And don’t put too much stock in it. Feel free to completely disagree and come to the conclusion that no one else would so wildly misinterpret your subtext. But once another person mentions it – you’ve got a problem.
And if your work still has problems, why wouldn’t you care? The declaration “I don’t read reviews of my work” is tantamount to saying “I posses a definitive mastery of my craft, and have nothing to learn from the lesser beings my work showers down upon.” So unless you’re comfortable saying that instead – read your reviews. And learn something about how to do what you do even better next time.