Chapter 14 of The Good, The Bad and the Molly is posted! I hope you enjoy it.
Instead of just having a spoiler-ridden blog talking about what I just wrote, I thought I’d do something a little different. I’m feeling a little anxious today and wanted to air out some thoughts relating to how I feel sometimes presenting myself online. A decently big theme of GBM is accepting something you’ve done while balancing that with not allowing what you perceive about yourself and others to cloud your judgment too much, and I’ve definitely struggled with that in the past. I’d be willing to believe I still do to this day.
A writer is either narcissistic as hell, just starting out or lying if they say they never have let any negative feedback get to them. When I first started, I was immature when responding to negative feedback. My strategies have changed over the years and I’m sure even my current strategy won’t last. That said, the most important thing to keep in mind when using a strategy to digest and in some cases reply to feedback is your own perspective, in through what lens you choose to view this feedback. Personally, I always write for my audience. I want them to feel joy, emotion, and empathy for the characters. So, for that purpose, I try to understand why the audience chooses to leave negative feedback in the first place. I repeat this mantra invisibly in my head: Find the reason. Find the reason. Find the reason.
So far I’ve found three main reasons for negative feedback in particular, two of which I can handle adequately well. Number one, first and foremost, they want a negative reaction out of you. Either for you to lash back, or to quit writing in general. This is where the cartoonishly hyberbolic comments that make the internet so famous come from – comments like, say, “Wow, this is the worst trash I ever read, don’t ever write again, go kill yourself,” blah blah blah. I personally haven’t gotten a comment like this in a long while, but I’ve seen other writers get it a lot, particularly writers that respond heavily to comments. I would also need more than two hands to count the number of smut writers that have quit writing either for one site or altogether because of comments like these. These comments can get to you so easily if you let them. This is why my mantra exists. If your first response to a comment, especially a negative one, is, “Okay, what is the purpose of this comment? Why did its author feel the need to send it to me?” instead of, “Who does that son of a bitch think he is?!” I guarantee you will react to it much better, and with comments like these, you’ll see that the writer of the comment is trying to goad you into creating a response of the latter. Honestly, this happens more often than one thinks. Not necessarily “I want them to respond and get mad,” but even, “I don’t like their writing and I want them to quit.” That’s a response too. Perhaps the writer is hoping by them discouraging you, you’ll pack up and leave, and they don’t have to see an author they don’t care for on the site’s dashboard again. Pure convenience for them. At what cost, I know, but enh, human beings can be selfish.
Reason two is a very valid reason: they want you to improve. They don’t necessarily want you gone, but they’d prefer you get better so they can enjoy your work more. This is… let me put it this way. Almost every single negative comment that isn’t trying to get a response from you like I said earlier goes in this category. You will have so much more of a stress-free experience as a writer when you respond to criticism with gratitude. Even if the criticism is based on the reader’s own error or you don’t agree, remember that someone took the time to contact you and let you know something that, in their opinion, would make your work more enjoyable to the masses. To me, at least, who comes from the perspective of ‘my work is entirely for my audience’s enjoyment,’ I see that as a gift. At worst, at absolute worst, the person might be pretentious and using an opportunity to boost their own ego, but even then they’re offering you a service in the form of their feedback. I will do my best to respond to criticism with an attitude of appreciation and consideration – I will likely mess up, as every author does, but finding the reason has helped me form a better relationship with even those that try to tear me down. There have been a few email exchanges with people where initially they said, “You made this mistake and this mistake and even this mistake, how can you even call yourself an author?” After I respond with a tone of, “Good catch! Thank you for the feedback,” many of them are surprised by this response and come back with something kinder, usually, “Well, I also liked this about your story, keep writing, thank you.” Adopting this attitude has even granted me a better relationship with my own critics, which warms my heart. So many critics are such kind people once they get their initial vent about your story off their chest, and I guess they rarely get to show that side of them.
So, reason three. Fun fact about me, as you most likely know from my earlier blog posts – I suffer from having suicidal tendencies. Never received an actual diagnosis, but the professionals I have talked to believe it’s depression. And I’m what they call low-functioning depressed. I’ve showcased the ‘romantic’ side of depression on these blogs before – the troubled artist, the “Oh, woe is me” writer that flirts with the very concept of death itself… one person even wrote to me saying they admired the way I carry on. Do not admire me. True, one of the reasons I can only put out one chapter a month is because I also work and have money problems and housing issues and all this, but I also am not a well person. I do all the non-romanticized things people with depression do. I’ll stay in bed staring at the ceiling for hours because I can’t feel good enough about myself to carry on doing literally anything else. I’ll have whole days where I get nothing done even though I could have, and should have. I’ll stay inside my room doing things I shouldn’t even mention on this blog instead of seeing people, or doing productive things. I want to do them, but I just… can’t function. Hence ‘low-functioning.’ And certain things trigger episodes in me that make me just want to give up, things that people can’t control and shouldn’t be asked to stop.
Reason three for people leaving negative feedback is that they just gave up on you. I have no way to counter this or what it does to me. That’s right, you heard it here first – if you ever dislike me as a writer in the future and want to hurt me, you now know how to do it. When I feel like I’ve let down a viewer and they’re giving me one last look before closing the door on me forever, for the first few seconds I contemplate giving up (but never do, of course), then for the next hour my ability to work is impeded. And to dare try to control people and make sure they won’t ever be disappointed in me again is entitled at best.
I’m scared to open my Patreon these days. The money coming from that has a great impact on me, to the extent where it has altered my life for the better (when I was in a shitty place in life, I was able to move somewhere else, a better home, partially because of that Patreon money, so, thank you so much). But I’m so scared of losing patrons to a lack of posting. Even though I do a weekly blog here, I don’t just want to copy/paste blogs to the Patreon, it feels disingenuous. What else do I post to Patreon? My content isn’t hidden behind a paywall (I get that’s what I “should” do, but robbing my own readers of any joy they get from my writing to make money seems… backwards, or wrong). “Hey, how’s everyone doing”? True, once I finish GBM polls will be back up, I guess that will be nice.
Recently, a patron ended their patronage to me. Which is absolutely their right, I’m not complaining about that. In the exit survey they said that I am not posting as much as they wanted and they’re not happy with the reward tiers. That… fucked me up more than it should have. I wanted to cancel my Patreon. I felt like a loser who had failed to give content to people. And we can all agree, that was dramatic of me. Believe me, I’m not going to try saying this stuff and pretend I was being reasonable, that was the wrong response of me to have. Unfortunately, it was also the low-functioning depressive response to have, and those responses aren’t going away anytime soon, much like the rest of my condition. I wanted to strive to post on Patreon more, or advertise my Patreon more, but, much like getting out of bed at 10am instead of sometimes as late as 6pm, it just doesn’t happen. I want it to happen. I wish it did. More than anyone else reading this – if it’s annoying to wait a month for a chapter to get out, imagine living with that same “why hasn’t it happened yet?” frustration every day, and knowing the entire time, it’s you that’s the reason why.
So, to that ex-patron, if they read these blogs, know that I am sorry, and that I wish I could offer you more but sadly can’t. I’m still incredibly grateful that you believed in me and supported me. If nothing else, I will never give up this writing and will keep delivering stories to one and all, patron and non. Even with my weakness to responses from people that gave up on me, if my own brain can’t get me to stop writing, no amount of negative feedback will ever make me stop writing – only improve my writing. I’ll talk to you all next week.