Let me be honest: People will react negatively to your writing. It doesn’t really matter what you write, or how you write it, although some topics and publications will gather more negativity than others.
I’m not talking about the rejections you’ll get, but rather how people will respond after you have your piece accepted and published. Some commenters confuse honesty with rudeness. Some won’t read or try to understand the whole piece. People who don’t or won’t try to empathize. People who believe one’s thoughts and tastes can be more important than your own experience, or somehow it can override what you have been through.
From insults to my writing and understanding, from the validity of my tastes (which is an oxymoron) to my authority, I’ve had my share of negative reactions and comments.
For some people, it’s just the way they are. Their talents for empathy have been reduced to zero, no doubt with the help of online anonymity and sense of security it provides.
The best way is to ignore, despite how hard it is. It might be selfish of me, but I remind myself that it happens to every writer. Sometimes I even read a comment or two on another writer’s post to prove my own point. And I always get proven.
The writer can be the most established, logical and helpful expert on the topic, and she will have to face negativity just the same.
The more controversial or unique your idea, the more nerves it will strike. But instead of doubting the value of your writing, you should pat yourself on the back. Because face it, it’s the degree of difference, the unique slant you brought to an otherwise familiar topic that got you paid and published.
Then there is another secret enemy you might have to face: You. You know the person who turns down so many ideas and pieces because they seem crappy, no good enough, already done, “insert any negative adjective here…..” You have to learn to ignore that voice too. Before you can have negative reactions to your published piece, you have to have pieces published. I’m not saying don’t do your best. You have to. But you also have to leave panicking and perfectionism behind to get ahead in your writing career.
For instance, your idea/post might seem very mundane. Or not a good fit. Like who cares if you don’t drink and it has nothing to do with religion? Or if you are a childless writer and/or is an only child and want to write for a parenting publication about it. Guess what? One writer’s non-drinking and the reactions she got ended up as a personal essay on Slate, and a writer’s thoughts on being an only child was published by Babble.
Guess what? I rarely drink, and I’ve been deemed as a weirdo almost all my life because of it. I’m also an only child who has no kids, and I feel overwhelmed by the number of publications I can’t seem to write for.
So just put yourself and ideas out there. Pitch well, pitch often, and you’ll see that you will start gathering bylines and paychecks with a smile on your face.
Back to the “enemies” outside:
Of course sometimes, your job includes responding to comments. The good news is, it is often required by smaller blogs who don’t receive that many comments or blogs with a strict commenting policy. You know the editor or blogger will protect you from vicious attacks, or they will erase those comments before they reach your eyes. The Establishment, for instance, doesn’t allow comments on their pieces.
Some healthy discussion and opposition are generally encouraged, and you can handle this with grace. Just try to see where the commenter is coming from, and keep things professional. As long as both sides are polite and respectful, even agreeing to disagree ends up being fun.
If you feel exposed and unsafe, immediately contact the editor and let them you don’t feel comfortable with the way people are treating you. Take a screenshot of some of the comments. Your editor is only human, and there is a chance they missed or overlooked some nasty stuff. They will most likely act accordingly and warn or ban the commenter.
If they don’t have your back, tell them you are only comfortable interacting with the polite ones, and it is your right to expect basic manners. You might rethink your arrangement with this client however. Even if you keep writing for them, renegotiate your job description and accept you can’t, you won’t, and you shouldn’t try to please everyone. You need to keep your target audience in mind, but when a post is well-written and SEO-optimized, it will catch more eyeballs – some of them who don’t agree with you on anything. And this is fine.
Good luck, and don’t despair. I’ve been there, and so have most writers. We have each other’s backs.
If you need a mentor, I offer coaching services. I’ve been published on The Washington Post Solo-ish, Creative Class, Be a Freelance Blogger, Brazen Blog and WOW! Women on Writing among others. I also dream of conquering Hollywood, so your big dreams and goals won’t faze me.
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