You Don’t Need to Know What People Are Saying About You
How to live your life on a need-to-know basis
I recently offered this piece of unsolicited advice to an author whose first book had just been published: “Don’t be constantly checking your Amazon rank. Limit yourself to 30 times a day.”
It was only sort of a joke, since I had a feeling this author was likely to check 50 times a day. In reality, I meant zero times a day. That’s probably unrealistic for first-time authors, but if you want to know the truth, I haven’t looked at my Amazon page, let alone the ever-fluctuating sales rank, for the last three books I’ve published. (It should go without saying I have never so much as glimpsed a Goodreads review for any book whatsoever, for fear my face will melt off from the radioactivity.)
This avoidance might be construed as an admirable sign of willpower, some indication that I’m above all that self-obsessed competitiveness and have opted to spend my time blithely sniffing flowers while taking leisurely walks with neither a care in the world nor my phone in my pocket. But really, it’s more of a head-in-sand kind of maneuver. I don’t look at my Amazon page because I don’t want to know what’s on it. I don’t want to see the project I’ve toiled over for years reduced to appraisals in the vein of “just meh” or “it was okay, but the author tends to go on and on.” I don’t want to know that my book is currently ranked number 12 in some finely sliced category like “Culture, class anxiety, real estate envy, Gen X rumination, dogs” and 1,000,000th overall.
Not only do I not want to know it, I don’t need to know it.
Checking your Amazon rank throughout the day is like weighing yourself throughout the day. There is no useful information to be gleaned. (Just as you can drink a glass of water and gain a pound, then take a walk in the hot sun and lose it again, your sales rank rises and falls according to the algorithmic whims of the market.) In fact, when it comes to putting any of your creative or intellectual work out into the world, I’m of the firm belief that public reaction should be taken in on a need-to-know basis. There are all kinds of things you could know. But it’s worth taking a moment to consider what you really should know. The list is probably shorter than…