I’ve seen an extraordinary number of stories, reviews, articles, Facebook posts, and even a few talks with friends recently that all center around one thing. I’m not talking about constructive criticism or critical evaluation. I mean people being nasty, negative, and non-constructively critical, i.e., TROLLS. And more importantly, people responding to them.
As I read this article ‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic I felt a mix of what might pass as emotions. Its easy to see all of the ownership that goes into any creative effort. In this case, an author producing her first work. And is often the case, she got a bad review. Unfortunately, she became obsessed with it. Despite warnings about engaging, she did.
I get it. When someone likes and appreciate your work, you want to thank them. Maybe even engage with them as positive reinforcement and encouragement. And by human nature, when someone is negative, you want to find out why, and possibly even try to change their mind. In this case, her pursuit revealed a lot of disturbing potentials, including revealing people using something other than their own identity. Well, it’s the internet. I could as easily by a hyper intelligent trained alien marmoset. My wife will just tell you I’m a smart ass. Some days, it’s just an ass, but I digress. And only possibly from another planet.
But when I read this, here is what I saw more of. A great draining waste of time, energy and resources that could have been spent improving her skills, creating more work, or even simply enjoying life. I wondered what this personal trial meant for her, her career, and life.
Another one, this time a restaurant review where someone threw a tantrum because the establishment stuck to their business practices, was short, and to the point. The response was well crafted, and undoubtedly drawing a lot of good attention, but there will always be someone who will take the side of the customer. But at least it was a quick and direct response. The review system is a system that can be gamed.
So why am I going off on this? Some other personal family and friends have been victims of various levels of trolldom. So here is my message for anyone stressing over it. And I’m trying to keep this fairly clean. Take feedback for what it’s worth. Haters can F*** Off.
When I pushed out my first self pub story, it had been through numerous self reviews and an external editor. Since then, its had a couple more external edits and reviews. And every time I flip back to it for something, I find something else. The good news with ebooks, I fix em when I find em. And if you have refresh turned on for kindle, you’ll get the updates. The first version version let a couple of things slip through that would have sent my English teacher mother into apoplexy. But, its getting cleaner. And for the most part, reviews have been fair. And I’m happy that most of my readers have forgiven a few sins in favor of enjoying the story.
I’ve gotten a few messages baiting contention. I deal with enough of that in the rest of my working life. I ignored them. On the other side, I’ve gotten more encouraging messages, and even questions about where my work is going. Those I’ll respond to.
I write because I enjoy it. It’s cathartic. I’ve written for most of my life, mostly to get stuff out of my head, and it lets me work through other events in my personal and professional life. I write for me. The fact that others are enjoying it is a bonus. And the idea that there are some haters out there? I have no expectation that everyone will love, or even like my work. No creative person should. Creativity is a drive to produce something of yourself. Most creative people are unwilling or unable to expose that part of themselves to the world at large. It is the few of that crowd that are willing to risk or tolerate the criticism that inevitably comes with opening yourself to the public, whether on an individual basis or in the greater electronic world.
I wrote this to give a little encouragement for everyone who is trying to bring life to their creative pursuits, whether personally, or because you are trying to make it part of your creative life. Take positive and negative commentary for what it is. Feedback. Use it to improve your skills, but don’t lose who you are, or your style. Be true to yourself.
And a message to any of you out there whose only creative outlet is being destructive to others. Make your criticism’s constructive. If you are going to take the time and effort to be critical of the work of others, do it with the nature of informing the creator, and their consumers. People are smart enough to recognize haters. And trolls.
And in the worst case, writers can kill you off in really embarrassing, creative ways. Or even worse, keep you alive.
An addendum from one of my favorites, Harlan Ellison.