Over several years of blogging, I’ve received some interesting letters from people. And by interesting I mean rude.
These are not written to offer friendly constructive criticism or to politely disagree with me. They’re written to get a reaction, but I usually have neither the time nor inclination to give these people what they want.
The following letter, for example, arrived in my inbox last week. “Dan” decided he needed to give me a piece of his mind—with a fake reply address, of course, so I couldn’t respond even if I wanted to (emphasis mine):
Reading your article titled “What Should I Write About? Finding Inspiration” was a waste of my time. It did not answer the questions it was intended to. You acted as if you were answering the first question while just talking about your vacation, and you didn’t even attempt to answer the second question you identified. I haven’t ever read any of your other articles, but based on this one, I wouldn’t want to. The only information on that page which is relevant to the topic is your statement, “getting outside can be inspiring”. While relevant, that statement is not helpful. You don’t say anything about what thought processes lead to inspiration or good ideas, or about what makes an idea good. This thoughtless blither should not have been on Google’s first page for any search criteria.
Well, “Dan,” I did actually answer both questions. If you had read to the end of the post, you would’ve seen that I had planned a follow-up post for the following week.
- Post 1: What Should I Write About? Finding Inspiration
- Post 2: What Should I Write About? Focusing Your Ideas
I’m sorry you feel my writing is “thoughtless blither,” but I really have no control over being on Google’s first page for search criteria.
What surprises me most is that you bothered wasting even more of your time writing to me, when you could’ve spent that time searching for a better article.
Any other bloggers out there have some good hate mail stories to share?
Join the discussion
Angie Dixon says
Wow. I have never received an email like that, but somehow I’m not surprised that they exist. A point, though. Doesn’t he mean blather? I think I might have had to respond and tell him that.
Angie, I’m sure there are other bloggers out there who have received letters that put this one to shame, but still—I’m not sure what it was meant to accomplish. I looked up blither/blather, and it seems “blither” is a variant: http://grammarist.com/usage/blather-blither/
Priority Food says
It’s mail like this (among other things) that has kept me out of the blogging business. People can be so mean! It’s hard enough to put yourself out there, and then you have to do it knowing that people are going to say really hateful things to and about you. Right now I’ve pretty much got myself talked into believing that people write comments and emails like the one Dan wrote to you in order to make themselves feel better and more powerful against someone they feel threatened by. Is it true? Not likely. Is it a lie I can live with? Absolutely, if it means I’ll finally bite the bullet and start writing. I saw Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) speak, and she said something along the lines of, you have to write as if you are entitled to have your say, because you are. She never said anything about being entitled to unconditional love of everything you write. Which is why you never read reviews and you ignore people like Dan; and there are a lot of “Dan”s in the world. Ugh. Don’t you just hate them, though?
Honestly, I would never let these kind of letters deter me from doing what I’m doing. The vast majority of notes I receive are very kind and thoughtful. I really couldn’t tell you what people like “Dan” are hoping to accomplish, especially when they leave no way for one to respond to their criticisms. Writing is full of disappointments and rejections (whether it be blogging, freelancing or writing novels), and it’s something you do learn to put up with more and more as time goes on.
Peter Rey says
I guess the only thing we can do about such nice and coward fellows is to ignore them. After all, with success comes also a host of sideways problems. And haters and trolls are chief among them.
Thanks, Peter 🙂 I do usually ignore these but decided to post this one publicly because I thought others might find it interesting. Putting yourself out there has pros and cons, for sure!
The ones I enjoy most are where they say things such as “You are such a moroon” or “That was the stoopdist articul I ever read.” I find it a relief that folks like that can’t relate to what I had to say.
Rick, I concur! I actually don’t mind criticism if it’s written in a constructive manner and is accompanied by a reply address. The articles in question were written about five years ago and I’ve definitely grown as a writer since then, so if I were to critique them myself I could surely find room for improvement. Insults are not constructive, though!
Anne R. Allen says
Suzannah–Unfortunately these trolls are the price of success. The more popular my blog gets, the more it attracts toxic trolls like “Dan.”. They do love to try to sound “superior” using big words they get wrong (like “blither” for “blather”) or foreign phrases they don’t understand. They are usually pathetic buffoons, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying.
I spoke recently with a relative who works with mentally disabled adults and he says he finds at least half his clients in the Amazon forums and Reddit every day, making comments just like this.
It’s helped me a little to realize these are not functioning adults, and their words have no more merit than those of the guy screaming in the subway wearing a tinfoil hat.
But we can’t help wanting to defend ourselves. We need to ignore them on their own turf, but on your blog, I think it’s good to call them out like this and let people know these toxic creeps are out there, making a blogger’s life more difficult.
If they actually threaten to hurt you, you can report them to the FBI, but this adolescent verbal rock-throwing type can only be ignored.
And of course, if you write mysteries you can always feed him slowly into a fictional wood chipper. 🙂 I’m writing about that on my blog next Sunday.
Do know you’re not alone in dealing with these toxic lunatics..
Anne, that’s very helpful, actually! Looking forward to that post 🙂 I wonder sometimes if these people forget they’re writing to a fellow human being. I’ve read plenty of stuff on the internet that I deem to be poorly written or unhelpful, but isn’t that what the X button is for? It’s not like someone’s tying them down and forcing them to read people’s blogs 🙂
D.C. Weathers says
The internet has given rise to those with no voice, but given this voice often times results in not knowing what to do with it. A good point you make (find material you enjoy reading) Being critical is completely opposite of stupidity. Give thoughtful, kind advice or insight and read instead of typing.+
It’s true, D.C., the internet gives people a voice, and it also gives people a way to say things without having to identify themselves, so there are no consequences for the commenter—they can be as rude as they please. Personally, if something I’m reading isn’t hitting the spot, I just stop reading. That doesn’t mean I never speak up if I think someone is in error, but I have to have a good reason for doing so. Thanks!
Connie Terpack says
I loved your answer. Some people can’t see the forest for the trees. Just a few minutes ago I asked a guy why was he wearing yellow flowed head band. I expected some sort of goofy story. Instead, I got a simple “Why not.” I was hoping to have something odd for one of my book characters. I don’t have a story for it at this point, but whenever I see something that peaks my interest, I put in the Ideas file. I’ve seen enough dads using their mouths as a pacifier holder, so I’ll probably do something similar for the hair band.
I received a super nasty comment a few weeks ago. I answered her question, but apparently she didn’t like my answer. She dropped me without letting me respond to her scathing remark. Like you, I am going to do a blog on it.
Thanks, Connie 🙂 Maybe these people never learned that “you get more bees with honey.”
The more popular one becomes, the more fans and haters one has.
You can see it as a badge of honour. 🙂
Good point, Alex!
It amazes me the lengths people will go to to be mean to others. I always wonder what made them so unhappy, that they do their darnedest to hurt people they don’t know. Knock on wood, I haven’t suffered any troll attacks, but then, my blog has very few readers!
Sara, it’ll happen eventually. As Alex, above, wrote, the more popular one becomes, the more people feel the need to pick one apart. Sad, but true!
Anita Rodgers says
Wow, nice guy, huh? I never received an email like that but I’ve had trolls latch onto my blog. One in particular was almost scary. He started off commenting about what a wonderful writer I was and piling on the compliments. Then when I didn’t respond (apparently) in the right way he started leaving unbelievably rude and nasty comments. Attacked me personally, my character, my motivations, etc – as though he was a jilted boyfriend. Bizarre.
Luckily I had a lot of loyal readers who went after him and he went away. But that is the strangest/nastiest encounter I ever had with a reader.
There’s no logical explanation for people who behave this way. I think that people like this suffer from severe self-esteem issues and can’t confront whatever their actual problems are, so they comfort themselves by attacking total strangers online.
Good read. Thanks for this.
Anita, that IS scary. People have to understand that we’re all busy and though we try to respond to comments and emails, sometimes it’s just not possible.
Cynthia Dagnal-Myron says
I NEVER answer hate mail. Or negative comments. Period. Ever. I learned this from my old Sun Times colleague Roger Ebert, and it has served me well for decades. Doesn’t matter if it’s in my Inbox, a Tweet, a Facebook flame, whatever. You can’t reason with them because that’s not why they’re writing. I have a HuffPo troll who seems to hate everything about me, not just the writing but me, personally. I just let him rant. Readers skip over those messages to say whatever they want to say. And now and then, I’ll respond to a positive comment. But the trolls? Not one word!
Cynthia, this is excellent advice from someone who should know! I really need to take an absolute no-response approach to these types of comments. I’m getting better at it, but the temptation to reply and defend oneself is, at times, overpowering.
Crane Hana says
Last summer, I made a couple of observations about marketing-challenged writers on a huge writers’ forum. That day’s example was a completely different Apple forum, and a writer who took such umbrage with a reviewer’s three-star review that he made hundreds of increasingly shrill and angry posts – off what was a fairly positive review for a kid’s book.
The fun began when said writer began to *stalk every single person who commented* – on the Apple forum and on the writers’ forum. I didn’t answer his comment on my blog, nor did I allow it to go through.
I’m sure the poor guy sold a few digital books that month, but he ended up making such a laughingstock of himself that major news services wrote about him.
Yeah, authors need to be really, really careful about not replying to reviews. It only ever ends badly!
Ay, Suzannah. I’ve had that kind of mail. One person unsubscribed from my list because I ran a post ‘Why Men Don’t Like Women Authors, And Vice Versa’. She thought the title was sexist. Of course, it was! The purpose of the post – which drew 88 thoughtful comments – was to examine sexism in literature. Whenever I write a popular post I get unsubcribes from idiots who wail like Pavlov’s dog. The good news is, none of us want such people on our list. It costs us money to host them. They’re never going to buy from us. So a controversial post is a great way to clean one’s list!
John, you’re so right that these are not the people we’re writing for anyway, so they don’t matter. The majority of subscribers are kind and grateful.
Just for your own amusement: Yesterday I received a nasty comment from someone who had submitted to the literary journal I manage. Turns out she was still angry months after we rejected something she submitted, and she proceeded to tell me how wonderful her poetry was, how prolific she was, and how many daily views she had for her websites, so she just KNEW her poetry was very, very worthwhile. She’d been published in ten thousand other countries but never in North America because we’re not sophisticated enough to appreciate her writing. Yes, people actually think these things about themselves, and they make sure everyone else knows it!
That’s hilarious, Suzannah. Like you, I receive a lot of guest post submissions for my blog and, very often, they’re not publishable. I once made the mistake of editing a post that contained a great theme but was badly written. I ran it past the US author. You could have heard his screams across 3000 miles. Everything had to published exactly as he’d submitted it, he said. He was a pro, he said. My British usages were unacceptable. He said… Hyphens instead of em dashes? Single rather than double quotes for reported speech? Why, they were the signs of an amateur writer! (I have a PhD in English Literature.) So I grovelled in three directions and declined his post.
Yes, John, as a dual citizen of Canada and Australia, I very much appreciate the differences in spelling and grammar conventions between Americans and Brits! In any case, people who think their country’s style is the “correct” stye are simply misinformed.