Next up in Negativity Week (which is actually short for How To Remain Positive in the Face of Negativity But That’s Too Long of a Blog Title Week, or HTRPITFONBTTLOABTW for short): one of the greatest challenges authors face. Dealing with negativity.
It used to be that the worst negativity an author was subjected to were rejections or, for the fortunately published, bad reviews in newspapers (ha! Remember those? What innocent times we lived in three years ago). Even the toughest of authors struggled to maintain a level head in the face of reviews they felt were unfair. Norman Mailer, so tough his corpse could probably still beat me up, sent a letter to the publisher of the NY Times in 2003 complaining about his bad reviews.
But now in the Internet age, rather than the big dagger in the heart courtesy of the Times Book Review, it’s more like a death by a thousand Internet paper cuts. If you are out there with any sort of presence on the Internet you will feel it. People will try and cut you down to size, to get to you, to leave you nasty Amazon reviews, to take out their frustrations on you.
I feel it constantly, every single day, and I’m not even an author.
But I’m not complaining! You know why? Because the cardinal rule of dealing with negativity is: Don’t complain about negativity.
No one wants to hear someone complain about how they’re being picked on. And the more successful someone is the less people want to hear about how they’re being picked on. Who knows why. Human nature. I once saw a pack of pigeons ganging up on one pigeon and pecking him like crazy. I’m guessing the fight started when that pigeon complained about how the other pigeons were a bunch of meanies.
But once you have been picked on: try try try to care as little as possible.
This can be hard to do. It hurts when someone says something truly mean about you, particularly when it contains a grain of truth that has been blown up, distorted, or turned around. Or especially when it’s a blatant falsehood, like the time someone said I looked like Chace Crawford only with fetal alcohol syndrome (Um… that’s false, right? Please?). But it’s so important to see the meanness for what it is: meanness. It’s not even about you.
(The word “Whatever,” spoken aloud, works wonders as well. So does this video.)
And most importantly: don’t respond.
Okay, sometimes it’s too tempting to resist responding. But if you are going to respond, there is only one way to do so: with a perfectly clear head.
This takes some self-reflection. It takes asking oneself, do I really have a clear head or am I still ready to throttle this person and dip them slowly into a pool of magma? If it’s the latter, your anger will come through in your response and you’ll wind up looking shrill or passive-aggressive and not at all how you are intending. If you have a clear head: the perfect comeback will present itself.
The only way to respond is through genuine humor, humility, or selflessness. Not passive-aggression. Truly funny or humble or both. If you can’t bring that because you’re too upset: then just don’t do it. Better to put out a tough front and just not respond at all.
All of this boils down to one thing: negativity is a test of strength. If you show weakness in the face of negativity: you lose. If you show strength and character in the face of negativity: you win.
The Internet smells weakness. Be strong. Be magnanimous. Be virtuous.
And then you’ll beat those &*$^@*$ into a &*(^&^$ virtual pulp.