One can always expect negative comments when a controversial piece is published, however, even the most innocent and well-meaning pieces can attract heartless comments. Like many published writers, I’ve experienced my fair share. Here’s my advice.
PEOPLE GET TO DISAGREE WITH YOU
No matter how articulate you are as a writer, people will interpret your words their own way; often in complete opposition to what you intended. Some are lovely and supportive and others are deliberately cruel. What I always remember is that everyone is entitled to their opinion and it isn’t always going to agree with ours. That’s ok. As writers, we want our words read and if someone leaves a comment, you know someone has done just that.
THE NO-RESPONSE RESPONSE
If you are thin-skinned and easily upset by negative comments, stay away from reading them. It’s easier to move on to your next piece without the self-deflating and demoralizing effects these comments can cause. They’re difficult to ignore but do your best, it’s not mandatory to respond to any comments.
THE RESPOND-IN-KIND RESPONSE
You can reply to each comment but know you won’t change their minds and if your responses are generated from hurt and anger, they will only serve to fuel the fire. If you can respond graciously, you’ll be much better off: “I understand you don’t agree with my views and I appreciate you taking time, not only to read my article, but to comment. We all have our own opinions and I always encourage respectful debate.” This way, you ingratiate yourself to the reader, validate their right to their opinion, but don’t get into defending your views.
There are those who disagree respectfully and I sometimes respond thoughtfully to them after honestly trying to evaluate why they feel the way they do and reply accordingly. I learn from these commenters and appreciate their replies. It can be an enlightening exchange for both reader and author. You’ll come to know when you’re dealing with an adult capable of respectful discussion.
There are also those whose intention is to attack, sometimes brutally. My advice is not to respond to anyone who is using profanity or bullying techniques to badger and incite you. I don’t acknowledge their comments ever. Once you begin defending yourself, you’ve already lost the game of Bait and Break the Author. Engagement with people who only want to fight often invites others of the same ilk and there is mob mentality associated with comment threads. Walk away and don’t look back.
THE TIME VORTEX
Don’t let the negative comments consume so much of your time that you’re sucked into the negativity vortex that is the Internet. Only you can decide how much time you want to devote to this aspect of being a writer, but I found the more I engaged with nasty commenters, the worse I felt about myself and my writing until I realized I’d brought it all on myself by getting involved in the first place. It saps your energy and before you know it, hours have passed with no positive outcome.
Rise above it. If there’s one thing I would tell any writer who feels saddened and despondent after a barrage of attacks on a piece, it’s this: If you are a non-fiction writer, people are far more likely to chime in, it isn’t a fact-based genre and is far more open to interpretation than fiction. When you feel overwhelmed, pull back and try and see the bigger picture. Once your words are published, there’s no going back. Accept there are hateful people in this world and you have absolutely no control over their feelings; you do have control over how you react.
Seek support. There are countless writing groups to join wherein you can find support for every aspect of your writing, some geared for more personal attention than others. Use them. There are fellow writers, authors, editors, publishers, who share their coping mechanisms. Learn from them and by sharing your experience, many will learn from you. It can be a tough game. There are no referees but you will find true connection and support in the right group.
RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH
This is something I find so many writers don’t do: Read some pieces at the site you’re thinking of submitting to and the see how their readership normally responds to content. Our titles are often changed by editors so look specifically at the titles of their pieces. Are they provocative, click-bait titles intentionally meant to infuriate or agitate people? If so, you know you’re dealing with a site that counts on provocative titles (not necessarily content) to induce the click and increase SEO. Know what you’re getting into ahead of time and consider carefully if this is the type of site you want to submit to. If you can handle it, some of these sites garner great reach and by sharing your post, you may well benefit too if they’ve included links to your social media pages. It’s up to you; again you have control.
In conclusion, every writer must develop their own way to best cope with negative comments. Finding the way that best works for you can take time, but remember, time is a precious commodity so make sure you’re spending it in the most productive way possible. Write on.