We already have it tough enough, what with being our own worst critics and all.
Unfortunately, launching our words out into the world also opens us up to the criticism of others, criticism that can be either constructive or just plain cruel.
A few months ago, I blogged about the 10 reasons married sex is better, a subject matter I knew could be offensive to the entire unmarried population, but — hey! — it was all in good fun. One of my commenters took personal offense, putting forth the assertion that women stop having sex once they’ve scored the man (and his money). I tried to respond with friendly logic, but it proved impossible. I shrugged it off and left my other readers to defend me. It was no big deal.
Then, just the other week, I blogged about my dislike of deep v-necks on men…especially when paired with huge amounts of chest hair. Who knew chest hair was so polarizing!? One commenter even called me a “metrosexual-loving illiterate.” While I readily admit to loving metrosexuals, being called “illiterate” stung.
The thing is, the mere act of being a writer invites such behavior. It’s just something we have to deal with. Here’s what you have to remember when weeding through the comments, criticisms, and feedback your writing receives:
You Can’t Respond with Logic:
Seriously. While most comments are completely valid — not meant to be discredited simply because they’re not in line with your own opinions — it’s usually easy to tell when a commenter is really a troll. And as much as you’ll want (desperately) to defend yourself, your words of logic will only provoke more crazy.
Sometimes, You Shouldn’t Respond at All:
Because that’s exactly what they’re looking for: Attention. A comment clusterfuck that spirals quickly out of control. Don’t give them the pleasure.
Sometimes, However, You Do Need to Take Responsibility:
If you don’t want your comments section to devolve into a huge mess that soon lacks any coherent or intelligent discussion, you need to take on moderating responsibilities. If you worry that such behavior is in direct opposition to free speech, just remember: This is not just for your own sanity; it is also for the sanity of your readers…those looking for like minds and safe online havens. Set up a easily-located comment policy or code of conduct. It will make it easier to police things. Sonia Simone recently wrote a great post about this over at Copyblogger. Check it.
Don’t Doubt Yourself:
This is the most important one to remember because, despite our bravery when it comes to opening up to the world through our writing, some of us are are still sensitive little bunny rabbits. And one mean comment can make us doubt our entire career path. But once you start panicking, you’ll soon realize: For every snotty comment you receive, you’ve probably received 20 more that are positive (and downright enthusiastic).
I’d like to end with a quote from that Copyblogger post: Don’t talk to the trash; just take it out.
So let’s hear it: What’s the craziest bit of criticism you’ve received?