Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don't Let the One Get You Down

Every single writer has experienced the naysayer, the critic or the lone dissenting voice, knowing they shouldn't give it credence. But it hurts anyway.

I recently wrote a FundsforWriters editorial, the topic of which was being positive to the point of Pollyanna, of all topics. The response rate tickled my heart and splashed a smile on my face for hours. Nothing beats the sensation of  touching readers with a pertinent piece. Several dozen people thanked me for my viewpoint. The editorial ended on this note:

The better your outlook, the higher your success rate. Quote me on it. If you think you'll succeed, you will one way or the other. Others will sense it and want a dose of whatever it is you're drinking.

One email, however, blew me out of the water. She said my message stung her . . . it hurt. What the heck?

As I read on, she spoke of her troubles with lack of employment, inability to pay bills, and a shrinking supply of groceries. How dare I tell people to improve their disposition as a cure-all? How dare I insinuate that they are down on their luck because they simply aren't charismatic?

I caught myself wanting to make excuses, explain myself. I even toyed with arguing, telling her that her toxic email proved the very point I made in the editorial. People like positive people; they tune out the negative. Goes to reason that editors, agents and publishers want positive clients.

I practiced my own preaching and replied in a positive tone, wishing her well. In the end, she thanked me, and we parted friends, but most situations don't end that well. I've been accused of being too right-winged, too left-winged, too white, too female, anti-semantic and pro-semantic, anti-Christian and pro-Christian. The list is endless after twelve years of editorials. But with each critical email, I received dozens more in a congratulatory light. So why dwell on the one?

When I receive personal emails, I almost hold my breath. Literarally, I open all the other mail first, leaving feedback to last in case one tells me I suck.

It's human nature to want to please others. Our mothers taught it to us. Be good. Be nice. We are taught to please before we are taught to be independent, which to me can clash as we attempt to succeed.

Remember, as you rise, more will try to shoot you down. You become more vulnerable as you succeed. People have a right not to like your writing, and we all too often interpret that as a personal slap. Even amid a hundred hugs, one slap out of a hundred leaves a bruise.

I disagree that one bad apple spoils the entire basket. Pluck that sucker out of there and enjoy the rest of the bushel, letting all that juicy goodness make your day.


BECKY said...

Hope, I loved this. It really amazes me how some people only do see the negative things in life. And, as one succeeds, others may be jealous. I agree, Pluck that sucker out of there!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this blog post, Hope. I really needed it today!

Karen Lange said...

I read that editorial and really enjoyed it. Actually thought about emailing you and then just got busy. Sure, it's not a cure all for everything, but life is sweeter and more rewarding when your attitude is upbeat. We all have ups and downs and get discouraged but I'd rather sow to the positive than to the negative, for I believe that it truly becomes what we are.

Anyway...I wish there was a button you could push to wash away the sting of a negative comment or review. Saying you can't please all the people all the time is one thing, working through it another. Ah, but then, we could look at it as a way to build character and grow, eh? :)

Anonymous said...

Too female, hmm? That's an interesting one... :)

Thanks for this post (and for the guest post about positivity). I needed it this week!

Anonymous said...

I actually was very inspired by your recent writing on keeping a positive outlook. I write on human rights issues a lot, and it can be very depressing - both for me and for my writing. But I've found that people are much more responsive, and my writing more engaging, when I approach these hard topics with at least some humor and lightheartedness. Thanks for the reminder!

Mridu Khullar said...

Of course there's misery in the world, but that doesn't mean we should all walk about being miserable.

One of the biggest surprises for me when I first started writing was how much support I received from others. For that, I love the Internet. The haters get a quick hit of the delete button from me and I'd be lying if I said such comments didn't ramble around in my head for days afterward. But the act of deleting such comments/e-mails is very freeing! I slay them with my mental sword!

jennifer said...

Love that quote! I think I'll tuck it in my pocket, tape it to my mirrors and the dash of my car.