Getting Down to Business

Since January, I’ve been writing an amalgam of personal history and random thoughts for this blog. Lately though, as I’ve gotten bolder, commenting on other blogs with more controversial topics, I’ve taken a few “smackdowns”. This should be expected as a natural consequence of our right to free speech – the right of others to think we’re not ‘right in the head’. I’ve also received some comments on this blog that sent me right down a rabbit hole, tapping into my own insecurities about making my thoughts and writing public.

I have not developed a thick enough skin and these weird collisions with people I don’t know (and who, despite my posts, don’t know me) are off-putting. This is irritatingly typical of me – a whole group of lovely, interesting people interacting with this blog and I focus on four or five boorish, name-calling comments, from people who sign in as “anonymous”, don’t have a blog and are never heard from again. I spent a couple hours in my head composing witty comebacks that only proved how insecure and incapable I was of letting things roll off my back. I went with a passive-aggressive approach, using the “Unapprove” comment button and not responding. It’s embarrassing that I don’t have a stronger constitution for insults. By strangers, nonetheless.

After spending a weekend reading, tending to home projects and visiting friends, it hit me. And I was happy when I figured it out. This was one of my goals – to put myself in a position to learn how to handle criticism, disagreement, even outright hostility. Maybe it’s my mental spin factory, but I do try to learn lessons from negative experiences. It makes me feel smarter than if I just continue to obsess about things. It’s a step in evolving as a writer and putting myself out there.

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

Elbert Hubbard (American writer and philosopher)

Many writers are introverts and I count myself among them. It’s awkward and uncomfortable to be out there, even with my middle-of-the-road musings. Blogging introduces real time criticism. To develop a readership for a blog, it demands that you stay on schedule, answer comments promptly, be able to shoulder or slough off whatever comes your way. I’ve met my initial goal of regularly writing and am now doing Blogging 201- dealing with critics. It’s hard to not take it personally, when what I write about is personal, but I will continue posting here, since for 99% of the time, it has been a great experience (it’s always that darned 1%). I’m just not ready to shut up and retreat into my dotage, apparently.

To avoid getting sidetracked by my bruised and sensitive ego, I am pushing my plans up a bit for offline writing. I had planned on focusing on a novel once my job ended, but that won’t be for a few months. If it weren’t for reading other people’s blogs, I would never have known about November’s National Novel Writing Month. It’s free participatory program, writing approximately 1667 words per day for 30 days, totaling nearly 50,000 words or woo-hoo, a novel! I’ve signed up and corralled a friend as a writing buddy.

I’m excited about it, as I’ve never written anything approaching novel length. I’m writing the outline this month and trying to figure out when I’ll schedule the time to write. Life isn’t going to slow down for my self-fulfillment, so I’d better come up with a plan.

So, enough of my whining and sulking – time to get on with the business of writing.

23 Comments on “Getting Down to Business

  1. This is interesting to me. As I have no desire to read the anonymous insults of people who are just spinning their wheels… I’m very happy you chose not to approve their comments.

    On the other hand… as a TV reporter in the days before internet, I got plenty of hate mail. (Not to mention phone calls.) The calls I don’t remember so clearly, but I saved all the mail. Everything from the central Florida farmer who wrote when I was doing weather, “move your fat ass off the west side of the peninsula” to the alternative medicine expert who actually faxed a letter to the newsroom calling me an “idiot.”

    I may haul those letters out of the garage and start putting excerpts on my blog. I think it’s a good reminder that… like you say… anyone who’s out there gets picked on. It’s a sign you’re getting their attention. And some of those hecklers are really inventive. Especially the ones who write from prison… they’ve got time to get creative.

    Anyway, you have my support. When the trollers hit me, I’ll try to handle it with as much class.

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    • I’d like to believe I’m going with “class”, but I worry that it may just be cowardice. It sounds like you have had some practice. It’s my nature to ruminate and obsess – were you able to shake it off, or did it stick with you for days?

      I’m okay with respectful disagreements and can even go a few friendly rounds, but the personal attacks can ambush you on a day when things are going just fine. I think if I engaged someone in that mode, that it could be a never-ending, ever-escalating shriek-a-thon. What kills me about this is that what I write is simply not particularly controversial – I think that’s why I was gobsmacked.

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      • Getting hate mail or calls definitely was upsetting. It usually took a few days to feel better. It happened to everyone in the newsroom and we’d always say it was the sign you were doing something right. That was the positive spin… people don’t take the trouble to respond if they’re not connecting to what you say.

        Like you, I have patience for legitimate debate and differences of opinion and zero desire for rude insults. You’re the second really great blogger I’ve seen do a post like this in the past few days… so I’m guessing there’s a trolling problem. Hopefully there’s an administrative way to block those people and we can return to expecting intelligence and civility. It’s a really special part of this community.

        Also, I don’t know if you ever read the comments on the pages of really major writers at the NYTimes or Salon.com. But some idiots even slam people like David Brooks and Paul Krugman… so you’re in excellent company.

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  2. I think there are those out there that take pleasure in getting people wound up – sock puppets who like to upset someone and sit back and enjoy the show. Good for you for seeing the positive and learning from it.

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    • I rented them space in my brain for a couple of days, before going the positive spin route. Going offline for the weekend helped to clear my head. The online environment is a world unto itself. Sock puppets – nice! That’s a good image to keep in mind.

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      • Renting space in my brain – what a good description. I can do that myself sometimes. I can be a bit uncertain about what is really my best work and I probably rent that space out to easily:) Sock Puppets is a term used a lot on BBSs – you’re having an interesting discussion and suddenly some anonymous person stirs the pot…

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        • I got that phrase from my husband. When I get frustrated or upset, he’ll say: “Don’t let them rent space in your head”. I would qualify it by saying, if they were renting, I’d be gaining something. I think they’re more like squatters.

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        • In the online world, there are two special types of “trolls.” Sock puppets usually refers to fake accounts a troll creates to echo his trolling (almost all trolls are male). Meat puppets have actual people behind the account, but are part of a troll’s “choir.” Trolls, of course, are those who say things they may, or may not actually, believe, but which are intended to incite response. (A genuine comment is rarely a troll.)

          Trolling is actually named after the fishing sense of trawling for fish (also called trolling to mean very slow movement). Trolls are trying to bait others into a response. The homophonic similarity to the troll beast is just added icing on the cake (the term was well-known when I began online in the mid-80s).

          A very refined version of trolling is a “Poe” (based on Poe’s Law, which is “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing”). A “Poe” is a satirical comment or parody that most would recognize as such (usually for being so over the top), but which the overly serious will take seriously and react to.

          (Steven Colbert is a recognized master at Poe.)

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        • Good grief. Is somebody making money from doing this? It seems like an awful lot of energy going into just trying to ruffle feathers. Thanks for the info!

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        • No money (as far as I know). Some observers feel it’s a bid for attention, others wonder if it’s a form of vandalism (acting out frustration or rage). Some people just genuinely like creating chaos.

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  3. I’m so glad you’re doing NaNo! I (sort of) did it last year and it was a great experience. If you’d like another writing buddy, let me know, I’ll be tackling it again this year.

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    • That would be awesome – someone with some experience doing it! I love your writing, so it would be great to commiserate and cheer each other on. I’ll be in touch!

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  4. I’m so glad you’ll be doing NaNo! I participated last year for the first time and will definitely do it again this year. In fact, I’m rarin’ to go and can’t wait for Nov 1st!! I had never written anything other than short stories before NaNo and wasn’t sure I could write that many words. But I made my goal with a few days to spare and loved it. The trick is to not edit as you write – just write. Editing can come later. I had a really hard time with that as I hate not having my writing the way I want it, but knowing I had a goal to reach helped. I just wrote and sometimes couldn’t keep up with the ideas pouring out of my fingers onto the keyboard!!

    As for the rotten comments, some people have no couth, that’s all I have to say. I haven’t had any nasty comments on my blogs, but I have in other forums. I usually ignore the person; some people are so incensed when someone expresses an opinion different than theirs, they have to resort to name-calling because they can’t have a rational conversation; they don’t know how. So don’t let them get you, just keep doing what you’re doing.

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    • That’s great to hear that you did it and loved it. Like most things, I’m jumping in with both feet and looking forward to doing it. Not editing as I write is going to be my challenge as well. I can work on one paragraph for an hour, only stopping when I start putting things back in that I deleted. I am hoping to pit goal orientation against perfectionism, with the end result being that I will get out of my own way.

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  5. That’s great that you’re writing a novel! But I hope you don’t stop being bold to put your thoughts out here because I look forward to your very brave , unconventional words! I think that’s really cool. =>

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    • Thanks for the encouragement! I’m hoping something emerges from the rigors of writing 50,000 words, but at the very least I’ll know that I can do it.

      Liked by 1 person

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