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Goodreads, my gateway drug to self-loathing

Published 16th July, 2019 in MRP Guest Blogger

My name is Alicia, and I’m a Goodreads-aholic. It’s been about thirty days since I last checked Goodreads.

I first started checking Goodreads a whole six months before my book was released. I created an author profile and as soon as If I Tell You was there, with its grey pre-cover art image, I claimed it as my own.

I watched as it was added to lists and to reader’s TBR piles with an equal mix of excitement and dread. Like going to the dentist for a scale and polish. I loathe the dentist but I do love that fresh-cleaned-teeth feel.

I checked in every day, it was my guilty pleasure. I added it to my list of favourite websites and I checked in on it the way you might if you were propagating seeds. And then it happened. A few months prior to release the first little yellow stars started to reveal themselves like fresh little sprouts. People had read my book. Okay so not everyone LOVED my book, but they LIKED my book. 

I was a Goodreads addict and the high it delivered was euphoric! Every morning I woke up anticipating that hit. How many stars would there be? What would the next reader have to say? Would they like it? Would they love it? And then it happened. 

My first 1 star rating.

Like any addict will tell you, the comedown can be a real bitch. 

I scrolled past the number of three star plus ratings as though they were invisible. All I saw was that one lonely star. This person had hated my book and naturally by extension, me. And as a self diagnosed chronic people pleaser—this was rough.

And then if that blow wasn’t enough, next came the zero star reviews. The DNFs (did not finish) the scathing comments and the vows to never read anything I ever write ever again.

And I’d been told on countless occasions by many people not to read the Goodreads reviews. Because Goodreads is for readers, not authors—it’s right there in the title. I had a stern talking to myself and promised I was going to leave Goodreads well alone.

But I was hooked. Instead of accepting that it was time for me to quit Goodreads cold turkey, I started checking it even more obsessively. I left the page open at all times and would refresh it at half hour intervals. Hanging for that next shot of euphoric five star rating. Someone, somewhere must be reading my book and loving it. I checked the “currently reading” lists and wondered what they were thinking.

To be clear—I have never even fantasied about contacting a reader or reviewer, but I will admit to wondering a whole lot about them.

But the ratings kept adding up (slowly) and still, out of the hundred or so ratings all I could see were the few solitary stars blinking back at me.

And I know that reading is subjective. I have friends who hated my favourite books. I was unable to finish a book that my friend claimed was the best book of the last fifty years. I went to the Goodreads pages for my favourite books and read all their shitty one star reviews and I told myself that they didn’t matter.

But they mattered. I couldn’t stop. Goodreads had its claws in deep and I was it’s willing victim. 

I felt rejected and crippled and like I couldn’t risk writing anything again in case people didn’t like it.  And then that made me feel like a fraud because I’d literally written a book celebrating bravery.

I knew that if I was going to get out of my own head, I needed to kick the habit. I blocked the Goodreads site on my phone and laptop. Not failsafe by any means, but it was a start. 

That first day was tough. Like really tough, and for someone who has battled other more traditional addiction in the past, I mean it wasn’t as hard, but there was a definite need there. I was thirsty for those stars, that validation and self flagellation I craved. But like most addictions, day by day it got easier until I thought I was handling it. Then after a week I fell off the wagon and checked. I was simultaneously defeated and buoyed. There were no new ratings good or bad. No one was rating my book at all! Which of course meant no one was reading it (which I know is not true but it’s hard trying to rationalise with a relapsed addict). 

So I quit again. And again… and again. And each time I quit for longer and when I inevitably relapsed, the impact was less and less and now I can even check it without breaking into a cold sweat. I started writing again and some days, even I think it’s not that bad.

I’m still a casual user. If Goodreads was booze I’d call myself a social Goodreads-er but like any addict, I’m only one bad day away from relapse so for now, I’ll keep the pages blocked just in case.

Alicia Tuckerman is a driving force for young LGBT voices within Australia. Raised in rural NSW before she left home at the age of sixteen, she accepted a position to study at the Hunter School of Performing Arts. Described as having an overactive imagination as a child, she recalls writing stories her entire life. Alicia attributes surviving her teenage years to the comfort, release and escape writing offered and she hopes to inspire the next generation of readers and writers to embrace their true passions. Alicia’s debut novel If I Tell You, explores the joys, triumphs and cruelties of modern day adolescence.

Read Alicia’s prior posts with us, ‘Sometimes Writers Don’t’ and ‘The Place I Began’.

We publish high-end literary fiction, crime and the best short stories currently being written in Australia.

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