Being a Better Writer: Haters

The moment you create something worthwhile, someone out there in the world will start to hate you. I wish this wasn’t the truth. I wish I could say that people were always going to be rational and capable of thought, but that’s not how it is.

Welcome to Being a Better Writer, where this week we’re going to discuss one of the more asked-after topics since I’ve been writing BaBW, one which I only in the last year decided it was time to tackle. This doesn’t have much to do with the act of writing, but it is about dealing with what comes with it. And, I think, all other forms of art and expression.

Haters. It’s a topic many of you wanted to see. Well, today you do. So … let’s talk.

As I said above, the moment you create something worthwhile, someone out there in the world is going to hate it. And if they don’t, that doesn’t mean what you’ve created isn’t worthwhile, it just means that they probably haven’t noticed you yet.

But I may be getting ahead of myself. Some of you are probably wondering what I mean by “haters.” What a “hater” is.

Well, it’s pretty simple: A hater is someone who someone who displays irrational and senseless dislike for someone else and/or their creations. They will express this dislike through reviews, personal attacks, or whatever other avenue they can find. For example, one individual who disagreed with something I said on Facebook about politics (for the record, their stance was basically ‘if you’re not my left, you’re a fascist’) went through the trouble of review bombing one of my earliest books with a one-star review, then friended me on the review site immediately so that their one-star review would show up in my feed as a fresh alert, all for my impertinence of daring to have a political opinion opposite their “correct” one.

Petty? Oh yeah. But that’s kind of what haters do. Haters aren’t rational people. They’re people with a grudge, however small or meaningless in the bigger scheme of things, that has seized them to go beyond rational behavior. And they will do anything to act on it.

And if you’re going to be a content creator, you’re going to attract them. You’re going to attract the ones that are detractors. You’re going to attract those that disagree mightily with your opinions and demand you capitulate to their own. And you’re going to attract those that just hate everything you do, and insult, belittle, and attack you at every opportunity until the end of time.

Why? Well, there are a few reasons. We won’t go into all possibilities, but it’s important that we talk about one of the biggest ones. Some people just like to troll. They like to get a rise out of someone. They like making people angry for some reason. And yeah, you’ll probably get those. Others will start out as “fans,” but make the shift to hater as you don’t live up to their “ideal” of what you “should have” been (this one crosses over with detractors).

But the largest and most common haters you’re going to attract, in my experience? They hate because they feel a burning emotion they’re just not mature enough to deal with.

Envy.

Yup, that’s right: Envy. The fear, discontent, and resentful longing brought about by someone else’s possessions, accomplishments, qualities, or even luck. Often associated with jealousy, which is when an individual (in this case) feels that someone else’s success will threaten their own.

See, you’ve created something. 99% of haters haven’t. Your success, your act of creation? They find it threatening because they haven’t created anything. And when they see what you have put out there, that reminds them that you’ve put something out there and they have not. Their jump in “logic?” To tear you down as much as possible, to be a “hater” because that’s how they get their validation. Your success? It’s a threat to who they are. Tearing you down? Well, that will make things “fair” again.

Sound a bit unhinged? Well … yeah. Like I said, these people aren’t really capable of handling their issues with emotional grace. And they will devote a surprising amount of time to insults, threats, whatever they think will work, in order to drag you down as far as possible.

Post a story somewhere? It’s trash; you should delete it now and never write again to hide your shame. Selling a book? You should be embarrassed by how “terrible” it is and that you actually dare to sell a book to make money. You’re horrible. Etc, etc etc.

Haters can come from anywhere, too. They can be other people in the field you’re moving into, acting out of jealousy and spite (this person is threatening to make my work more irrelevant! How dare they!), or it can come from supposed “fans” of what you’re creating in (I am envious because this individual created something I won’t/can’t). They can be folks who are just browsing along and see you as a convenient target, or any number of reasons. But they’re going to post, attack, and otherwise inflame.

So, with that said, and that in mind … what can you do? What should you do?

Well, in this case, you don’t have to do nothing. There are some things you shouldn’t do, but there are things you can do.

For example? You can silence these folks on your own site. You can block them. You have full authority to do that. You can pick them up by the scruff of their neck, walk them over to the front door of your site, and push them out of it. Your site is your site. You don’t have to deal with someone who’s not contributing anything useful if you don’t want to.

You can block them from messaging you on other services, too. If someone is sending you hate mail, just block them. There’s no harm in doing so. There would be harm in reading their words and getting torn down constantly.

Last but not least, you can ignore them. Honestly? These folks kind of burn their own bridges, spewing bile everywhere. It’s sort of like evolution. If they keep spewing acid, eventually the only ones around them will be those that are comfortable living in that acid. Those that aren’t? They’ll leave. In attacking senselessly, a hater often makes more known about themselves than they do about their target.

One thing you shouldn’t do is engage them. It’s a waste of all time involved. That old line, “haters gonna hate?” You aren’t going to change their mind on anything. You are their target. Your choices are to simply ignore them/block them … or be a target. You will never be anything else … except perhaps a success story for the hater, fuel to lead them on to other targets (after all, it works on you …).

Right, so don’t engage, block, etc etc. But some of you might be wondering about the other side of things. What to do when a hater hits a nerve.

After all, no one’s work is perfect, and haters love to find every imperfection and blow it up to be the most massive mountain they can find. And it can hurt.

After all, that’s the hater’s goal: To make you hurt. To make you doubt. To make you give up and quit. But how do you counter that?

Well, for starters, you can look at all the improvement you have done. You can remind yourself that something a hater says may be out of context (for example, one hater tried to tear me down by quoting all the parts of a review out of context where a reviewer had said “many books do this thing that’s not great, but this book dodges that by” and just quoting the “this thing that’s not great” part. You can even go look at reviews and comments from those who do like your work.

Or you can go create something new. Ever heard the saying “the best revenge is success?” It’s so, so true. Go out and keep working at it. Make something newer and even better.

Now, a final caution about this. I’m not saying you should ignore legitimate criticism. And sometimes, being able to tell a hater from someone that’s just poorly offering legitimate criticism will be difficult. You’ll have to play it by ear, and you might make some missteps figuring one from another. That’s part of the process. But you do want to listen to legitimate criticism where it appears. Thankfully, the two are normally very distinct from one another, but there will be cases that might appear otherwise.

At the end of the day though, simply by creating something you’re attracting haters. It may take months … or it may take days. But they will come, either to troll, or just simply because they’re envious of your accomplishments. And your best option is ignore or otherwise block them. They don’t come to bring anything good to what you’re trying to do, only to tear down. And that’s not positive at all.

I wish there was something more I could say on this topic, but despite how often it’s been requested, there really isn’t much to it aside from “ignore, block, don’t engage.” These folks won’t go away if you ask rationally because they’re not rational to begin with. Be it politics, social issues, or just plain dislike for you because you appear to be a target, they’re not going to give up anytime soon. They have to be bored, succeed, or find a new target.

Let them stew in their own bile. Get back to doing what you do, and create. Focus on the real critics, the ones that give you a drive forward to be better.

Good luck. Now get writing.

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