Yesterday I read a great newsletter/blog post by Marcy McKay, author of “Pennies from Burger Heaven”, and it started me thinking about the haters out there, especially the ones trolling posts by authors, be they famous or wannabes. And that started me remembering many things.
In his later years, my father became critical of everyone — I learned to dread the first few hours after we came home from any kind of a gathering. He paced like a caged tiger and let us know what was WRONG with each and every person who had been there (and some who had not, with his nasty speculations as to why). It invariably ruined even my mother’s enjoyment of the day, patient as she was of his shortcomings.
Back when I was growing up, he kept his criticism to just my sister and me — or maybe just me. I seemed to be the one who could never live up to his expectations. So I grew up self-conscious, insecure and had no self-esteem, and yet something deep inside me stood up and fought back. Not hate, exactly, but definitely something that was always there between us, keeping us from becoming really close. Then slowly I came to realize that he, like all of us, carried the criticisms of his own childhood on his back. His coping strategy was to point out everyone else’s faults, so that he could feel better about himself by comparison. That’s a sad thing, and after that I just pitied him. And that’s what I do with haters. Or at least all but one:
A few years ago I was in an online writers group on Facebook that welcomed beginners. Some obviously had no background at all in the craft of writing, but they all had a story they wanted very much to tell, and the more experienced of us worked at being encouraging. We’ve all been there, right? Then we got a hater. Every time one of these hesitant, diffident people posted about what they wanted to write, this person replied with the most virulent abuse: how could they even think they could be writers, they were obviously stupid and inept and knew nothing and would never be successful at it, on and on. They should take her advice and quit trying, because after all she was a real professional author. The rest of us told these “youngsters” over and over to ignore her, but many simply dropped out. And many more just couldn’t help crying out things like “I don’t understand, why are you saying this to me?, I know I’m no good but . . . ” You could hear their pain, and it was heartbreaking. Their answers and our own pleas just drove her into greater heights of sadistic pleasure. I got so desperate to drive her off before she ruined the site that I went looking for the books this “professional real author” had published and found that she had one book that had been published ten years before by an outfit I never heard of. It had nothing but bad reviews, and from the remarks it appeared she had sold maybe five copies and nothing in the last nine years. So although I felt bad for shaming her right back, I posted my “research” with no additional comment. Wow, you can imagine what she had to say about me after that!
But at least she forgot about the newbies for a while. Finally we got the attention of the site monitor and they got her blocked, and the last thing I heard was that FB had blocked her altogether. I have always felt that it was a shame we had to do that, and yet, there are times when, if someone is dragging you under, you just have to kick free and let them drown in their own unhappiness.
So what’s your way of dealing with haters?