Thursday, July 5, 2012

why vacuuming your house = getting a review

My house is for sale. I've never sold a house before. We've been in this one for over ten years now. It was our first proper house together as a married couple. I started my writing career in this house, typing my novels on the dining room table—that was when the dining room became an office. We brought our  son home from hospital when he was born—that was when the spare bedroom became a nursery. We've stripped carpets, painted walls, replaced boiler and windows, fixed roofing, laid turf, built a shed. We've talked, played music, eaten, entertained guests, slept, argued and made up, created life. My husband goes away for weeks on end for work and when he comes back, this is the home he's been missing.

But we need a bigger house. I need a proper office, not a dining room that's on the way to the kitchen, and I'm tired of eating all our meals on the coffee table because what used to be a dining room table is now a desk.

I am very slightly obsessive, and so whenever anyone is coming to view the house, I clean it from top to bottom. I'm doing this on average twice a week, so the house is cleaner than it's ever been, but I am also distracted from my writing and tired of wielding a vacuum cleaner.

The thing that I wasn't prepared for, though, was how personally I'd take it when someone comes to see the house, our home, our nicely-decorated and quirky and clean home, and decided they don't want to make an offer. Sometimes they give reasons, but it doesn't matter to me. Every single time I think, "What's wrong with you? Why don't you like MY HOUSE??"

This is, of course, ridiculous. Everyone has different tastes. Everyone is looking for a place that will suit them, which will become their home. Just because I've been happy here, doesn't mean it will automatically be good for someone else. I know this in my rational mind.

My husband has a different reaction. He says, "Hell, I don't want to sell my house to someone who  doesn't like it. If they don't like it, they have rubbish taste. End of."

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? Well, it struck me today that I have a similar unhealthy reaction to reviews. If I get a negative or merely lukewarm review, I should, rationally, think: "Oh well, the book didn't suit this reader. That doesn't mean it's no good."

Or, possibly, if my battered ego needs boosting, I should think (privately, of course): "Hell, I don't want people who don't like my books to buy them. If they don't like my books, they have rubbish taste. End of."

What does in fact happen, however, is that I take the review personally. Like my house, my book is something I've lavished with care and love. It's something I've lived in, for at least a year of my life. So my knee-jerk reaction is to be much more affected than I know I should be.

I know the answer to this problem because it is blindingly obvious: don't read reviews, or just get over it. Just like I possibly should not spend every waking moment of my life before a house viewing folding the tea towels or picking every last speck of dust off the bathroom floor.

(Come back on Sunday for Anna's post.)


  1. Good luck with house sale Julie...have been there a few too many times and am now experiencing the review thing...I have no words of wisdom but send hugs x

  2. The right person for your house will come along. Promise. Moving is hard and fraught. Entirely stressful. The people who eventually bought our old house saw it ten minutes after I finished cleaning up a huge game of spider's webs (basically making an intricate web of wool in which children try not to be caught) they just loved the layout of the rooms.
    And I have come to the same conclusion about books. I write my books for the readers who love them. Some reviewers are trolls and you have to wonder why they bother with so much negativity in their lives.

  3. I respect reviewers' opinions—after all, there are plenty of books that I try to read and end up throwing against the wall. I'm a pretty picky reader, and it's fair enough that other people are, too. Reviewers have the right to write whatever and however they want...especially if they bought the book. I put it out there; it's out of my hands. They didn't write the review for me.

    This is my rational opinion. In the few moments after spotting a not-great review, I forget it. But rationality does come back. Eventually.

    The cleaning, however, seems to go on and on and on...

  4. Hi Julie

    Good luck with the cleaning - it must feel like groundhog day. When I bought my last house after having a second child I had a list of what I wanted. The house I bought ticked every box, so sometimes it's not just about opinions but about boxes.

    And personally I have loved every single book I have read of yours so I wouldn't worry about that either.


  5. Good luck with the house sale, Julie! As others have said, the right buyer is out there, sometimes it just takes time. I feel the same way you do though and would hate to sell my house to someone who didn't appreciate its finer points (and all the work I put into it). Forget the cleaning though (apart from the bathroom) and just bake a cake, the delicious smell will entice them!