How writers can learn to shake it off.
I received a message from a reader asking me, as a fellow blogger, how I handle negative comments on my articles. Since I think this conversation is worth talking about with the writing community as a whole, I thought I would share a few of the tips that I sent to her in response.
1. Consider the source you are publishing with.
For example, on my own personal blog I welcome differing opinions, but it's my space, and in this space I choose not to publish mean-spirited feedback. Frankly, I rarely, if ever, get any though, so this is usually a non-issue. (I think this is because it's not welcomed.)
On the other hand, if I'm writing for an eco-minded, wellness website, for instance, then my material should fit this website's crowd. I'm not suggesting that we contort or shape our writing for where we're sending it, but we do need to be thinking critically about whether websites are a good fit for our material, or not.
Which brings me to those large, highly exposed websites. (This blogger who wrote in was asking this question in reference to a non-U.S. blog that she worked with that's popular in her country.) These types of sites attract a lot of traffic and, additionally, they attract internet trolls. Don't waste time on Internet trolls. Which leads me to our next suggestion...
2. On having a thick, thin skin.
Developing a thick enough skin to not care about Internet trolls (people who want to be negative and enjoy making others upset -- yes, it's a real term), and unnecessarily rude feedback, while maintaining a thin enough skin to still consider an opposing viewpoint's merit is essential.
Easier said than done. This, in my experience, takes practice. Some of this practice is doing things like...
3. Don't read all of the comments.
The blogger who messaged me specifically mentioned an article of mine that attracted a lot of feedback (like almost 400 comments). I read the first few, I'll admit, but then I stopped reading commentary after seeing one man say something like "the Bible says a husband comes first after God." Wow. Just. Wow.
While I did own up to reading a few comments on this article, I do not read all of the comments on the larger websites I write for because, unfortunately, not everyone is kind. Which leads me to...
4. Not everyone is nice.
This is a harsh truth that is worthwhile to acknowledge, both as a writer and as a human being.
It's easy to attack via a comments, like on an online medium, because it provides obscured safety. This is made even more troubling when we consider that these attacks are on a writer who boldly has a byline and puts herself out there.
Keeping in mind that not everyone is nice, and that not every relatively anonymous commenter has something worthwhile to say, is an important differentiation from those people who generally disagree. Which takes us to the following tip...
5. Categorize the feedback.
It's important to consider if any of the feedback was helpful or useful for us as a person or a writer, and the rest -- throw it out! Because...
6. You can't please everyone.
Thank goodness really -- the world is diverse. More, the Internet provokes opposition easily because of this veil of anonymity as well as the general population that it's accessible to.
Then, go ahead and...
7. Create more writing.
Take these comments that are upsetting and make new articles from them. I do it all the time.
Often, my next article is created from a comment or feedback I received, and it's usually not the positive feedback that encourages me to think more, and dig more, and write more. And last, but absolutely not least important is the reality that...
8. Not everyone is kind, but we can be.
I don't mind making people mad, as long as my viewpoint is worthwhile to share; as long as my thoughts stand up for a group that needs to be heard; as long as there is merit in publishing rather than just journaling this thought.
In other words, do contemplate if the material is useful and, if it is, be as sensitive as possible in how potentially offensive concepts are phrased.
However, only the individual writer can decide if we are alright with not pleasing everyone. I am. Do I like when I feel attacked? No. But I've come to realize that if my writing is upsetting someone so much (not trolls, but those who truly disagree) then, in some way, even if it's someone thoughtful and intelligent (like the blogger who wrote to me), who reads my work and its subsequent comments -- I'm getting people to think.
I'm getting people to challenge the boxes they often subconsciously put themselves in -- and that's what I'm trying to do as a writer in nearly all of my work, regardless of subject.
If you have a piece of wisdom that you've earned as a blogger on dealing with the haters, I'd love to hear how you learned to shake it off in the comments.