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Sad panda in London, UK

Sad panda in London, UK

As an emerging writer, I am not yet used to receiving responses to articles I’ve published on the web or in print. I’m usually elated if I get one or two, and especially cheery if they say something positive like “Good job!” Who wouldn’t be? But then, there are the critics. Critics, it seems try to bring you down for only reasons they understand.

I wrote an article about Hurricane Sandy that received some positive feedback through comments, Twitter and Facebook. I was just happy people were actually reading my article at all. But then someone on Facebook commented on how the article was an exaggerated portrayal of what happened and that I was over-glorifying my role through the whole thing. I got mad, and thought about retaliating with some equally nasty commentary, but I stopped, took a breath, and thought.

Thought Catalog contributing writer and literary personality Nathan Savin Scott often opens dialogue centered around negative commentary:

“Negative comments hurt. Yes, they do. No matter who you are…I know I’m supposed to say that I appreciate them because they will make my writing better, but let’s be real, for every one negative comment I get that actually brings up a valid point about the problem with my writing, I get 200 that just say ‘That suck'” or ‘Ur gay’ or ‘I thought this was stupid.'”

There are certain things every writer must keep in mind when dealing with outside criticism:

  1. People are entitled to their own opinions. One of the hardest things to reconcile with is that there are going to be people out there who won’t like your work. Scott suggests writers “humanize the person commenting…they’re people. And that’s what you have to remember. People who feel stuff. They’re angry people, obviously, and pretty clearly dealing with some control issues. (What type of person takes time, considerable time, out of their day to anonymously post this hateful shit?)” It sucks to see it, but honestly, you can’t criticize a person’s feelings. Some people just don’t see it your way. And that’s that.
  2. Don’t be that author. If you respond in an equally-negative fashion, what does that say about you? That you are a bitter author who can dish it but can’t take it? A strong writer is one who is able to forge ahead without a little bad commentary dragging them down.
  3. Not all criticism is bad for you. Sometimes, internet trolls actually do you some good. If people disagree with comments, they will fight back with a vengeance and support you. But even if it is overwhelmingly negative, at least people are reading it. You can open up a new conversation, and learn from the experience as well. “A huge flux of negative comments can teach you to stay away from certain topics in your writing,” Scott describes.  “When you write something and ALL the feedback is negative, you can learn something from that, even if the individual comments are stupid.”

When I comment on articles, I follow these rules. 1) only leave positive comments. 2) comment in the style of the article – is it a judgmental article? Then it’s alright to leave a judgmental comment or 3) open up a dialogue. I try to uphold rules 1 and 3 more than 2, utilizing rule #3 more so when there is an article I don’t agree with.

An article was written about some popular USA tourist attractions that the author thought were not as big of a deal as people made them out to be. She received some scathing remarks. Although I didn’t agree with her choices or style, instead of bashing her for it, I tried to uncover deeper meaning. Starting a dialogue is constructive and often helpful for other readers to gain insight as to what the author really wants readers to get out of the article that may not have come across easily the first time around.

So basically, “don’t player hate – participate.” Make negative commentary as constructive as you can, and don’t get defeated when a few people don’t happen to like what you have to say. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. As a writer, you’re going to encounter criticisms in many forms. Take what you can from it, and grow.

“When some kid writes, ‘nice artical you fucking homo’ on something I write, it doesn’t do me any good to lose sleep over it,” says Scott. “Instead, I sort of make myself imagine the person who’s writing that. How sad and angry that person must be…To empathize with people who hate you, who hate on you, is a lot easier on the heart than just hating them back.”

How do you deal with negative commentary/criticism for your work?

Thanks to the always awesome Nathan S. Scott for providing me with some sweet quotations.  Check out his articles for Thought Catalog, if you like what he has to say leave him a little love!