Haters gonna hate, hate, hate. I know that. If Taylor Swift has taught me anything, it’s that somebody always hates you. Heck, I hate Taylor Swift for reasons I can’t even articulate. And who am I? Nobody. She should never listen to a thing I say. What do I know? My singing is so bad that I mouth the words to “Happy Birthday” so that I don’t ruin anyone’s big day.
Bad reviews, even just tepid reviews, of my published writing used to kill me. After reading one meh review, I would spend at least a day seriously considering never writing again.
Being a professional writer, though, means you absolutely have to get used to bad reviews. It’s just part of the job.
So here’s what I did to get comfortable with the idea that some people–maybe many people–hate what my work (and/or me):
Recognize that everyone is entitled to an opinion.
Some people have read my books and articles and come to radically different conclusions than I intended. Or they just flat-out disagreed with me. It’s inevitable. And it’s okay. I too have opinions. What’s that old saying? Opinions are like buttholes: They all stink. No wait, it’s that we all have them. Most of the time, writers should stay out of conversations among readers. It’s just not our place to try to change someone’s mind about our work. But don’t assume that just because someone hated your book that that means it’s a bad book. It just means you agree to disagree.
Take constructive criticism with grace; ignore the other stuff.
When someone challenges your research, content, conclusions, facts, etc., it’s best to take an honest look at whether or not they have a point. I’m a better writing because I’ve listened to the criticism, especially criticism that comes from avid readers and writers.Some criticism isn’t valid. For example, I’ve had readers write to “correct” facts that were not wrong. Don’t sweat it when some yahoo writes to tell you that, well, actually, the American Revolution was fought in Poland in 1998. You will never change their mind.
I’ve had readers make wild and unsupported assumptions about what I’ve written. One reader accused me of arguing that teens should be having way more sex. I swear, I’ve never, ever argued that.
And some readers will always correct you for not covering subject x in a book/article about subject y. They’ll say, Your book on project management for squirrels is terrible. I didn’t find a single chapter in there about latch hook rugs. You can ignore it, or you can thank them for their thoughts. Either way, just move along.
Separate the valid from the invalid, and then apply what you learned.
Just accept nobody cares how much time, energy, and effort went into your writing. Writing is really hard and really time-consuming, but almost nobody takes that into consideration (and maybe they shouldn’t). Readers will like or dislike your work regardless of how many times you revised or how many things you gave up to sit in front of a computer for hours at a time.
People who have published before tend to be kinder and gentler readers because they know how brutal the process is. They’ll grade on a curve. But most readers simply don’t know what the publishing process entails and they are just responding to the product in front of them. That’s okay! Just embrace that you will (almost) never get credit for effort.
Ignore the weirdos, the malcontents, and the unpleasant people.
It is true that when you publish, critics will come out of the woodwork and tell you bizarre things, some of which will be extremely rude.
Some of the strangest feedback I’ve received came from people making weirdly specific assumptions about me, like the commenter on one of my magazine pieces who said my husband hated me and I didn’t know how to use a coffeemaker. When you get feedback like that, just consider the source. And take solace in the fact that you struck a nerve. That’s what we hope to do as writers.
Readers will often make wild assumptions about you personally. You will get comments on your appearance, even when that has nothing to do with your writing. People will draw huge conclusions about you based on limited information: You are a selfish person. You spend too much money. You eat too much toast. You are a lumberjack. Seriously, people will come up with all kinds of ideas about you.You know who you are. That’s all that matters.
To be a successful writer, you have to learn how to care about your own voice–regardless of who likes it or who doesn’t.
Being a writer means embracing the reality that writing is meant to make people feel something…even if that feeling is that you suck.
Ever wonder why people believe in fake news? I used to believe it was confirmation bias, which is the usual explanation. Confirmation bias says we tend to believe what we want to believe based on what we already believe. In other words, if you have an abiding hatred for networking events, as I do, you’d be delighted to read a news story that says networking events are the leading cause of all natural disasters and were actually invented by Hitler. You and I would very much like to believe that story.
But it turns out that confirmation bias is only part of the problem. The real issue is that some people just don’t like to think. And it’s the lack of critical thinking that is keeping fake news from dying. We believe fake news because we don’t have enough energy, desire, or ability to think our way through it.
We’ve become inured to incivility because we just expect it. For instance, a million years ago, I worked in a shoe store on commission with a person who would tell customers that the rest of us were “new” and “didn’t know much.” She used that as a way to build her credibility so customers would ask for her. That’s incivility.
In another job, I had a senior co-worker who regularly asked me for personal favors (outside of work hours). If I said no to a request–like the time she asked me to take her to the airport at 4 am–she would pout and tell me that I “owed” her tasks at work to make up for this. That’s incivility.
A friend told me about a time she’d sent out an organization-wide email about the death of a colleague. She’d accidentally included a very small typo in the email that didn’t change the meaning of it. A co-worker called her and told her that she was unprofessional and should be ashamed of her shoddy work. That’s incivility.
So what can we do about incivility? We can kill it. We can refuse to stand for it. Here’s an article I wrote about how to do that.
What incivilities have you encountered? Have you been uncivil? (I admit that I’ve been guilty of incivilities.)