Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Creative extinguisher

Hi there. It's been a while. A little over a month. In that time, my book came out (which always sounds funny to say because I think of my book coming out of the closet.), I went to Zions and I went to Europe. My kids excelled in school, I did a lot of laundry and I bought three pumpkins for my front porch. I thought of new recipe ideas (it's like a disease), bought Skittles for my primary class and put Violet in her Snow White dress 50 times. I shaved Jack's head, rubbed lotion on Van's dry wrists and rubbed Ethan's feet a lot. It has been a busy last few weeks. A roller coaster of emotions. During the roller coaster, I have hit the low part of the ride a lot. You know the part where the roller coaster where it goes straight, but has lots of little dips in a row? I have been cruising on there for a while. I am sick of it.

I worked on my book for two and a half years. I remember when I first got started and made the commitment to myself to do it. Of course I fantasized about how it would feel when I was done. Elated, proud, strong. Anticipating that feeling kept me focused on my book. I knew it would be enjoyed and loved by people. It would get them cooking and make them comfortable in the kitchen. But I also knew I would get criticism. I knew it. It's impossible to create something that everyone loves. Impossible.

A few weeks after "The Family Flavor" came out, I went to Belgium. For Christmas last year, my parent's gave me a round-trip ticket to visit my sister in Belgium, to be redeemed whenever I wanted. It was the most magnificent trip. A once in a lifetime experience. I went alone, leaving my willing and able husband at home to tend our flock. I saw amazing things, met amazing people and ate amazing food. I don't remember the last time I felt that carefree. One night, I was sitting on my sister's kitchen counter, getting ready to devour some delicious Thai takeout and I thought I would check out the latest reviews. And there it was, the review that felt like a punch in the stomach. But of course I knew all along that my book wasn't going to be for everyone. Or did I know that? I mean, the review seemed a little harsh. Couldn't they have just said "I don't like it"? Or even gone farther and said, "I freaking hated this stupid book". But they didn't. They got specific and mean and man, it took every bit of wind out of my sails.

Ever since them, I have really struggled to revel in the joy of having written a book. I find myself going days on end not thinking about my book. I even caught myself purposely not cooking something specific because I knew I would have to look it up in my book. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? I wrote a book! I should be happy and proud! I have had so many kind, wonderful people say kind, wonderful things. I succeeded in having my book get people cooking and comfortable in their kitchens. Why can't I focus on that? Instead, I sit and stew in my mind. I put myself down and let that bad review take over. There are days when it consumes me and I feel so dark and sad.

I e-mailed my mom who is a writer. I said, "Mom, I got a bad review. Be my mom right now and tell me I don't suck." And she responded brilliantly and said wonderful smart things. In fact, I will post it. Here, read this. It's long.

Ah, let us talk about the inevitable bad review. It is a reality all creative people who put themselves out there must face. We have to ask ourselves if we really think it's possible for EVERYONE to love our product. Sadly it's not.

Remember we talked about parents of school kids, and that no matter what you try to do for the school, be it the most fantastic thing ever or close to it, a parent, or group of parents, will take issue with it. Contrary opinions are the nature of man. 

And it's interesting that if we have 100 great reviews, the one that makes us wonder the value of what we've produced, is the ONE bad review. For some reason it causes all the good to pale. Bad reviews are very powerful to the artists/authors mind.

I used to dread the negative feedback, but I have learned to value and expect it. There is usually something you can gain from it to implement next time you create. But at the same time, you have to have faith in your creation. If you have given it everything you've got (and you have), and you tried your very best to make a quality product (and you have), then you can't let bad reviews change your opinion of your product. You have to believe in it. For every dissatisfied customer, they're are 200 satisfied ones. 

Everything you create, builds on the next. As proud as you are of this cookbook, you will be even more pleased with the next one. And believe it or not, some of the mean feedback will play into your future work.  Most of what is said is crap, but often you can find something to help you improve. But you need to grow a thick skin and read it like you're someone else. You can't take it as a personal attack. It's not easy and it takes practice, and sadly the more negative comments you get, the easier it is to take them. I feared the feedback for a long time. Now I welcome it. Others often see things I missed. Critique has made me a better writer. 

Take your book in your hands and ask yourself, "Am I pleased with this? Is it a good product? Did I do my very best?" And if you can answer yes to all that, then you can put the mean comments in their proper place. We don't go out into the working world. Our world is relatively small. In the big, bad world negative feedback is commonplace (just think of the bad reviews Ethan has received over the years; and Jack gets beat up regularly in business), so we're not used to prickly people. You've thrown yourself out there, and this is what comes back. Just remember all the kind words and reviews you've received. I'd say they outweigh this one crappy one. Hey, I have a binder with all my rejection letters. I think Megan has one too. Susan Woods had 90 rejections before she found a publisher. This just comes with the territory. I'd say you've arrived!

As for me, I think your book is spectacular. Sure, I'm your mom, but aside from that, The Family Flavor is a beautiful book full of talent and love. The recipes are tried and delicious. Sheena did a fantastic job in making the book pretty. You should be extremely pleased with yourself. I'm sure proud of you. It's one thing to say, "I'm going to write a cookbook," but it's quite another to actually do it. As you've learned, there is so much more that goes into it than you ever imagined. Think of all you've learned! Especially that if you put your mind to something, you can get it done. That is one of the things I learned from Mourning Run. I also learned how to write a book. You now know what it takes to write a cookbook.  

Chalk up the bad review to experience. Don't be surprised if you get a few more. That is the nature of the beast. I haven't read the review, and I  won't. I guarantee it's stupid, and I already have my own opinion of your book. Sure, others will read the mean review, but don't let that bother you. Yesterday I was looking at a "Worst Movies of 2012" list, and Battleship was on it! I love that movie!! Idiots! So see? 

Love you muchly!

It is really hard to throw yourself out there creatively. I always knew it would be nerve-wracking, but it goes beyond that. Should I avoid creating to avoid criticism? No, of course not. But developing that thick skin takes time. So I suppose I keep creating, keep allowing myself to be inspired and move past it. It will take time for me to get off the roller coaster and I can't wait until I do. Until then, don't feel like you need to say nice things to me. I didn't write this so I could call for kind comments. I think I just needed to write things out. Maybe it will help me move past this tough part. 


  1. Man in the Arena... it's my favorite quote when it comes to criticism. Heck, it's one of my favorites regardless... I shall share: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. ~ Theodore Roosevelt.

    So here's to you, Whitney Ingram, for getting in the Arena!

  2. Oh Whitney... you don't know me, but I do love your blog. You tell it like it is... No pretending your life is perfect- you are real and it's refreshingly beautiful. I don't usually comment on blogs, but this post needed one.

    I know the review you're talking about. It took the wind out of my sails and I didn't even write the book. But it doesn't change anything. Your book is still beautiful, your recipes still tasty and you are still amazing.

    I read a quote today in a trashy celebrity article and it totally applies. Speaking of criticism she received Melissa McCarthy said, "I felt really bad for someone who is swimming in so much hate. I just thought, that's someone who's in a really bad spot, and I am in such a happy spot."

    Enjoy your happy spot. You did something great. You're living your dreams. Just because someone else is having a bad day (or month or year) shouldn't take away from your joy.

    Keep creating! And thank you for putting yourself out there- I for one enjoy it.

  3. Hey, you don't really know, me...but I am friends with your sis Caitlyn. She did my hair when I lived in Provo. Anyway, I love reading your blog, and love your recipes! I read that awful review on Amazon and I thought it was so rude. I wrote a response to it, but then chickened out and didn't post it. Maybe I will go back and say something. People need to keep their stupid opinions to themselves! Don't let that lame person ruin your life! I am going to buy myself a copy of your book for Christmas and I am so excited to try your yummy recipes!