I'm not the best when it comes to praise.

Don't get me wrong--I love encouraging words. And I need them, too. My love language is probably words of affirmation. The problem is, I don't know what to do with them.

I think I'm much better with criticism.

When criticism comes across my path, I stand firmly and dare for it to stop me. Criticism in any kind of form unleashes the rebel inside of me. It proves that I'm hardheaded and stubborn and foolish. It proves that I might not be a lot of things but I am persistent and strong-willed.

Praise, on the other hand, stifles me. The moment I hear it, I hear another voice speaking louder. That voice instantly undermines what I hear. Yeah, sure, a shrink would have quite the time exploring this with me. It's the truth. When I hear praise, I instantly tell myself that there's a reason for it that has nothing to do with me. Someone's simply being kind. Or someone's saying it for a reason. Or someone's deluded. But I rarely believe the praise because it's me they're talking about.

I say all this because this week has been a big one in terms of receiving praise on the author front. I've gotten some really nice reviews along with some truly remarkable emails. A few of them have really left me bewildered, wondering if they're talking about the right person.

I live in a world where I need to sell books, so in order to do that I have to sell myself. I probably fail time and time again in doing so--doing too much or too little. I'm sure I'm full of myself in so many ways. This writing thing is as precious to me as that little ring from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And, well, we see where that gets people who hold onto it too firmly, don't we?

I once asked Francine Rivers how she dealt with all the praise and gushing when it came to her work. I witnessed readers who would say the most amazing things to her.

Francine said as only Francine could:

"I simply say 'Thank you.'"

She's so right. There's not much else you can say sometimes.

So I say thank you to those who encourage me in small and big ways. I appreciate those who take time to read my work and then more time to review or blog about it. Every encouraging email or review confirms that I'm doing the right thing by telling these stories. Sometimes I get a big head and start thinking big thoughts. Then I see my sales and I come back down to earth.

In the end, it doesn't matter about sales. Yet for me, in my role right now, sales are critical. I want my publishers to be happy about the investment they put into me.

But the comments I'm hearing--those are what counts. They really are. I believed that fifteen years ago when I entered the publishing world and I still believe it today.

It's just taking me a little longer to accept that they're also talking about me.

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