Write It–Don’t Give Your Power to Critics

330px-Andrea_Vaccaro_-_David_with_the_Head_of_Goliath
Goliath’s Head, painting by Andrea Vaccaro Wikipedia

After over 27 years of reviewing fine and performing arts projects, I have a greater awareness of an arts reviewer or critic’s mindset.  The fact is reviewers and critics are human first and journalist second.  This means that their moods, life circumstances, and job stress along with opinions and beliefs color their reviews and critiques.  So if an artist receives a “bad” review of a gallery showing or if a musician receives a “poor” rating from a music journalist, my advice is don’t take it personally.

I’ve experienced life on both sides of the fence since I’ve had my music and writing reviewed for nearly three decades.  I’ve received mostly favorable reviews, but I encountered music journalists on the other side of the pond (England) with axes to grind with other women.  These particular journalists I believe were a rarity as most journalists I’ve met who work in the arts actually want to give favorable reviews.

See what you need to know about arts journalists is that most of them don’t get paid well unless they’re a major player at a major newspaper and even some of those journalists lost their jobs in recent years. Blogger journalists work for free and have taken the bulk of CD reviews especially since fewer and fewer music magazines exists any longer and certainly the editors don’t have enough space to review the plethora of recordings that come out each month, representing various genres, including traditional folk, which is overlooked in favor of world, jazz, rock, pop and European classical music.

I realize I have written my share of mixed reviews and I do always say something positive even when I didn’t enjoy listening to a particular recording or watching a particular movie.  Arts journalists are overworked with piles of recordings to review each week and more always on the way or they attend so many movie screenings in a week, that their eyes blur.

For instance, when I covered the film festivals, Seattle International Film Festival in particular, I saw around 100 movies in three weeks.  I would get up around 6:00 a.m. write reviews from the previous day’s screenings, and by noon be back at a theater to watch my first screening of the day, then I would watch three or four movies per day, sometimes squeezing in interviews with directors, actors, and producers for a website, then get home late, just to start over again.  I usually had a bad head cold by the time the festival ended.

(We also took home movie screeners (videos or DVDs) and started screening movies two to three weeks prior to the festival).

Then I would spend several weeks catching up on reviews, transcribing tapes from the interviews and uploading articles on a website or sending my reviews to publications.  I burned out after three years of that and no, I didn’t earn a lot of money for my time and effort.

I recently stopped reviewing recordings after over 25 years because the stress of listening to several recordings a week, researching the artists and then writing reviews took away from the hours where I could be earning a living.  Besides, my brain started numbing after listening to all that music, most of it brilliant, but still, the brain needs silence too.  So you can imagine why some recordings, especially if it was the third recording reviewed that day, would receive a lukewarm review.  Like I said, earlier, it’s a mistake to take reviews personally unless the reviewer has an ax to grind and to be honest, I never did.

Critics go into writing about the arts because they love the arts.  They have opinions about the arts and some of them wish they had artistic talent or do have it, but don’t have the time to pursue it.  Some art critics turn art criticism into art because they have profound insights, vast knowledge of the arts, and excellent writing skills. I used to drool over other journalists reviews, even if they didn’t agree with me about a particular movie.  And many art critics transformed into celebrities themselves.  Their opinions mattered because they could make or break a project or artist.

So now that you have these insights into arts journalism, take reviews with a grain of salt.  Sometimes the worst reviews transform us, cause us to work harder and create better work down the road that is critic-proof.  Then we must remember that even artistic geniuses make bad album, artwork or movies.  I’m only a fan of some of Fellini’s movies for example and some of his movies would receive scathing reviews from me only because they seem overindulgent and expect too much of a movie audience.  Yet, I believe that Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” is one of the best movies made during cinema history.

My final word is that you can substitute agent or editor for movie critic/reviewer.  Just because your manuscript doesn’t float one agent’s boat, doesn’t mean another one won’t fall in love with it.  Agents and editors also deal with high stress levels and as you know, working with temperamental artists is no picnic either.  And if it makes you feel better, think of all the editors who missed the boat with the “Harry Potter” series by rejecting it.  This just goes to show, we’re all human and as humans, we make errors in judgement.  So buck up and carry on.

Patricia Herlevi is a practicing astrologer and intuitive coach who specializes in supporting and guiding artists and entrepreneurs through their transformation and reclaiming their personal power. Sign up for a session at Whole Astrology

Write it–An Author’s Call to Action

(Published formally on Bonjour Bellingham)

DSCN6075Do you actually feel called to write or to do something else with your life? I believe that anyone can learn the craft of writing and even publish their work, but does that mean that writing will bring them the satisfaction that they seek?

I’m thinking of the late Joseph Campbell, someone I greatly admire.  Campbell answered the call to his quest which was to study mythology from around the world, find common themes, and to teach those themes to his students and his fans, like me.  He delved into psychology (Jung) and anthropology as well as, social themes of our day, not to mention popular entertainment(“Star Wars”), but the point that Campbell drove across for me was answering the call.

The call comes to a reluctant hero.  In Luke Skywalker’s situation, he was called on a journey and to answer the mystery of his father’s identity.  But answering a call, any call that leads to a quest, involves making a choice.  Do you choose to stay stuck in a boring, but comfortable life or are you going to leap into the unknown.  A quest is leaping into the unknown, whether you hop on a plane or embark on a new career path as a novice or an initiate.

We can’t avoid life baptizing us or sending us on one initiation after another.  In many ways writing is a shaman’s quest if you do it right and from the deepest part of your soul. If you can’t write from the deepest part of your soul, and you only write to put more money in your bank account, then you are on the wrong path.

People on this planet need a transformational experience these days.  They might not know it yet, but we as writers need to glean prophesies in the wind and intuitive what this world needs next, not the bottom line of the marketplace or the next wave of a trend. Forget the trends, they are superficial and a distraction from what you know you must do.  Sure if you can find a way to use vampires to wake people up spiritually and I mean light spirituality, not the dark stuff, then maybe that’s your calling.  It certainly isn’t mine.

DSCN4865A true calling feels foreboding in a way.  It’s like entering a relationship with a soul mate because you know your life will be turned upside down and never feel the same again. Once you walk through that door it slams and locks behind you.  Your old life is gone forever.  Then you embark on the journey as a writer.  You dig deep into your soul for stories, archetypes, and you may not always know where you or your story are heading, but you trust that the energy around you does know so you pay attention.  You follow those intuitive hunches and threads of synchronicity as they lead you like bread crumbs through a dark forest.

Then when you feel that you are on safe ground you experience your first obstacles.  These are the double-headed monsters of doubt, fear, lack of confidence.  You project these fears outward and attract critical monsters in the physical world in the form of the publishing industry’s rules, critics, people who rip your work to shreds and other monsters.  But you persevere because the calling is stronger than the obstacles.  You experience victorious days riding into a village on a stallion and other days you wallow in the mud with war tinging the hills in the background.  But it’s a cycle and you will soon ride victoriously again.

A true calling involves wrestling with demons in the soul and sharing wisdom gleaned on the journey. Once you respond to the quest there is no turning back.  At some point it is your soul you deliver to the world the form of a book.  And only you can decide whether that soul sought enrichment or cheap thrills.  The public might respond more favorably to cheap thrills, but only enrichment serves the highest good and brings the greatest benefit.

Would you like support for your writing process? Do you require a coach to keep you on track? Sign up for intuitive coaching sessions at Whole Astrology As a veteran arts journalist and a novelist, I have the expertise to get you on track to manifesting your dreams as a successful author.

Write it–Harmful Assumptions Author’s Make

You completed a novel, wrote your query, and pitched the novel to a few literary agents and then the rejections arrived. Many authors take the rejections to mean that they lack talent or that the literary agents think they suck, but wait a minute…

In the thirty years that I’ve been writing professionally (non-fiction) and the ten years that I’ve been pursuing a career as a novelist, I’ve noticed trends in book publishing. I’ve also noticed how economics affects the types of authors literary agents and publishers sign and promote. The current publishing market is conservative both in the advances given out to new authors (if the authors even receive an advance), as well as, to what extent a publisher will gamble on a new author.

Much like the pop music and American movie industry, book publishers prefer to go with the tried and true, whether that represents young adult fiction or sticking with established authors. Publishers and editors also expect new authors to have built an impressive platform which includes a niche market and social media followers for non-fiction, or a strong web presence and appeal for novelists.

When I posted my novels on the Authonomy website (Harper Collins UK) many years ago, the authors who rose to the top weren’t necessarily the best writers or even the most interesting people. They were extremely good at working the system and charming other authors to read their books (you scratch my back and maybe I’ll scratch yours). Many of these authors already had platforms such as a loyal following on Face Book, or were already known as an expert in their field, or they just knew how to brand themselves before anyone was even talking about branding individuals. But this didn’t mean they necessarily were good writers (though some were talented writers).

So what I’m saying is that receiving rejections doesn’t mean that an author lacks writing talent. It does mean that the author requires a new set of skills that revolves around networking, branding, and building a platform. It does involve in some cases, hiring a writing or a life coach to keep the writer on track. Sometimes it involves hiring an editor to perfect the manuscript because the writing craft involves more than finally typing “The End” on page 300.

I found through my own mistakes that taking workshops or joining a writing or editing group early on sharpens the writing skills. Despite trending genres, a well-written manuscripts still causes literary agents and editors to sit up and take notice. It also helps to be consistent with your writing style and developing a strong narrative voice for both non-fiction and novels. For instance, think of the strong narrative voice author Liz Gilbert brings to her infamous memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. You literally walk away with her voice in your thoughts.

Here’s a secret that I discovered after years of receiving rejections from agents and book editors. It usually is about them and not you. Granted, some times our manuscripts warrant serious editing or rewriting, but many rejections occur because the agent or editor isn’t in a position to take a risk on a particular genre, story, or voice. Consider these following reasons well-written manuscripts receive rejection:

  • Developing the manuscript takes too much time and effort (agents and editors are busy with their signed authors)
  • The agent or editor doesn’t feel passionate about the story (which means if they signed a contract with you, they wouldn’t stand behind the book)
  • The agents or editors feel that the author needs further development before signing (writing skills haven’t reached maturity yet)
  • The manuscript represents a hard-to-sell genre
  • The editor or agent feels that the author would be a challenge to work with (too much drama based on the author’s dealings on social media)
  • The agent or editor doesn’t have the time to teach the author about the workings of book publishing (you learn this through workshops, blogs, magazines and conferences)
  • Agents and editors have their opinions and quirks in regard to the type of books they prefer (it comes down to personal preferences)

So before giving up on what might become an illustrious career as an author, consider hiring a writing or life coach. Or hire a professional editor to critique your manuscript and give you advice on the best markets for your book. They might advise you to head back to school so that you can polish your writing and storytelling skills.

While some authors sign their first publishing contract while they’re in their twenties, I find that most authors toil away at writing, taking workshops, attending conferences, and joining writing groups (on or offline) for several years, even decades before writing a book worth publishing and reading. With the age of instant gratification (self-publishing), it’s too easy to defy the book-buying public by publishing books that compare to half-baked bread coming out of the oven. Readers are often more sophisticated than we believe.

I learned the hard way that publishing a book too soon interferes with real opportunities. True, you can always head back to the drawing board and reputations can turn around. We’re always learning and growing. But when I look back at my writing endeavors, I believe that now, at the age of 51, I’m finally ready to publish both my non-fiction books and novels to audiences who will truly appreciate the time I took to polish my skills and develop my humanity. It matters.

I’m an author and intuitive coach for artists and entrepreneurs. I’m also an astrologer and former arts journalist. If you would like help mapping your writing career, sign up for an intuitive session via e-mail wholemusicexp at gmail For fees and other information visit Metaphysics 4 Everyday Living (under intuitive coaching)