Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"Ignoring The Haters" or "The Zen of Not Giving A Damn"

I've been running this blog, along with my gaming blog Improved Initiative, for a few years now. I've published a dozen short stories, been part of at least as many RPG books, and I've got an archive of articles I've set up on the side of the information superhighway over the years. Sometimes, when I'm lucky, people will like and share that content on their social media. A few kind folks will leave comments telling me they like my stuff, and they hope I keep up the good work. But they are in the minority to the negative feedback I tend to get.

Now, of the negative feedback, some of it is valid. People who mention that I missed an errata in the rules, or who point out there's a typo in a subheading, are informing me of genuine errors in my work. Even when that kind of feedback feels snide or aggressive, it still has value because it points out a problem that needs to be fixed. There is another kind of negative feedback I get, though, and anyone who's ever put themselves and their work out there has likely experienced it too.

It looks something like this...

While cute, this cat represents the massing army of the haters that is constantly recruiting from all corners of the Internet. Some of them hate you, specifically, and they dislike anything you do. Others dislike the idea of what you do, and disagree with your take on a subject, your treatment of material, or just your general stance on things. Then there are haters who just hate, and because you're not on the list of things they like, they hate you on principle. It's not even personal. It's just that in the coin-toss of like/hate, you came up tails.

That can get discouraging, after a while. Especially when it seems like no matter what you write, there's this chorus of naysayers getting ready to shout you down. Fortunately, there's a simple way for you to keep doing what you're doing, and to shed all those haters like a duck sheds water.

Stop giving a damn.

It's Almost That Simple, Actually

You've probably heard this same advice ever since you were little, and someone said something mean to you. Upset, you went to find some comfort. That was when your parent, older sibling, or someone you trusted put their hands on your shoulders, looked you in the eyes, and gave you the key to living a life of zen.

"It doesn't matter if he called you an idiot. He's a dick, just ignore him."

Who cares what he said about your coat. It's warm and comfy, isn't it?
Before you take anyone's words to heart, give those words a simple test. Is there any legitimate criticism within this opinion? Did you misquote a source, incorrectly label the creator of an image, engage in a caricature of a particular group, or present a theory that had been disproven? Or is the person shouting at you simply dressing up, "I don't like what you did!" in different clothes.

Because if they don't like what you're doing, that's fine. They don't have to like it. They also don't have to engage with you, or your work. The door is right behind them. They're free to keep on scrolling, and ignore your happy ass if they so choose.

Listen to Your Numbers

You can have a hundred good reviews, but the five negative ones you got are the ones that will stick with you. You might have an entire comment section full of flame wars and hate, but when you check your traffic and follower count you see that both have gone up substantially. You might get a bunch of shares where people tag your book, or article, as the biggest piece of crap they've ever seen... but despite that, your sales figures are surging.

Numbers don't lie... or have opinions.
While you shouldn't ignore criticism entirely, especially if it does point out genuine flaws in your work that should be fixed, it's important not to get so sidetracked by other people's feelings, or their personal dislike of your style, tone, subject matter, etc. that you lose sight of the metrics that can actually tell you if you're making progress. Because it is not your job to win over the haters, whatever their beef with your work is. Your job is to find your audience, and to give them more of what they want.

Lastly, remember this. Anyone can complain. It takes exactly zero effort to talk about how bad this novel was, or how boring and played-out that series of articles is. It takes work to make something that's better. So, if the criticism is coming from someone who is a creator, and whose work and results you know and respect, that might be worth listening to. If it's coming from Joe-schmo, sitting in his boxers and ranting on Facebook about how unimpressed he is by your work, let him rant. It isn't worth the amount of time it would take you to fire a synapse and raise your middle finger.

Also, because it should be comforting, hate can also make you a lot of money. More on that in How To Make Money As A Writer (By Embracing Your Inner Troll), if you're curious.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing topic. Hopefully some folks out there have found it interesting, and possibly useful. If you want to keep up-to-date on all my releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. And if you'd like to help support me and my work, then head on over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron. All I ask is $1 a month as a donation, and for that you get both my undying gratitude, as well as some free books!

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