Hi Matt, I think you’re fearless. I admire how you handle your praise and popularity, but more so, I admire the way you handle criticism. I also write for a popular online publication, and I’ve been having a hard time lately with not letting hateful comments get to me. I feel like you know how to address your haters without letting them stop you from being you. Can you write a post about dealing with criticism and how to get over the haters?
First off, thank you! I’m glad I’ve tricked you into believing that I’m fearless, when the truth is that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing exactly 100% of the time and rely on others to make literally all of my important decisions. So, if it’s any consolation, just know that I have no idea what I’m talking about, and nobody else does either. Everybody you think is totally confident and cool has the same anxieties and doubts that you do, especially me, probably even twice as much.
As for the haters…
I should say, to be totally honest, that a lot of the hate I get isn’t that bad, especially compared to the comments that a lot of women writers and non-white writers deal with every single day. Most of the hateful comments I get, when I do get them, come from younger girls who think I’m being a creep because I’m an adult who sometimes writes about teenage girl stuff. (Which, I think, has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not a super hot YouTuber, just a weird-looking guy. BUT THAT’S AN ARGUMENT FOR ANOTHER TIME. *sips tea* *burns my tongue*) The point is, most of the mean comments I get are actually pretty innocent, even when they’re trying to be hurtful. So it’s easy to write those off as nonsense, or to joke about them without letting them stop me.
That being said, I do get comments that sting more than others. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a writer that DOESN’T have at least one comment they’ll never be able to forget. (Someone called me a thumb once, which, again, is a testament to how sophisticated my haters are. But yeah, I remember that one.) It’s part of the job, even though it sucks and it shouldn’t be. But as long as terrible people continue to exist in this world, it’ll be something the rest of us have to fucking deal with.
Fortunately, there are ways to deal.
The first is to fucking love what you’re doing. If you’re proud of what you create, an online shit stain can’t take that away from you.
The second is to just keep writing and making stuff. Literally nothing and nobody is perfect, and everything we create is just a process of making less and less shitty things as we learn. I think most of what I write is garbage, but I learn from each beautiful piece of garbage and make the next piece of garbage less garbagey.
The third is to find the people who you trust to give you good feedback. Find the people who’s opinions you actually value and listen to them. Nobody else matters. My friend, Ashley Ford, who’s a beautiful writer and ACTUALLY fearless, said it better than I could in an interview with the Guardian, so just listen to her because she’s smarter than me:
People will say crazy things and I’ve always been one to not care much what anyone says unless I respect their opinion and that continues online. So far, no one whose opinion I know and respect has said anything negative or crazy about me, as far as I know. If they have, then it still doesn’t matter because they’re not saying it to me. I’m a big believer that anything that anybody thinks about me that they haven’t said to me isn’t any of my business. I don’t need to know what they think about me. It’s not pertinent to getting working done.
Make stuff you love, trust the people you know and respect, and ignore the rest.
Whiskey also works.