Something very few pro authors in the online world talk about is all the “icky” stuff that goes on behind the scenes: the haters, the unsubscribes, the fear, the doubt, the self-sabotage. But I always make it a point to talk about that stuff.
Because if you want to do this pro author thing, like, for real, you’ve gotta know what you’re up against. Being an author in the digital space isn’t the same thing as being an author in the offline world.
In the offline world, the only way to get hate-mail is to have someone say it to your face or to send you a letter via your P.O. Box. But in the online world, hate-mail, complaints, people who want to criticize and point fingers and tell you that you’re wrong…that can show up in your email inbox on a daily basis (and believe me, as you grow into the author you dream of being and find more and more success, that’s exactly what’s going to happen).
If you want to be a pro author, you have to be OK with this. You have to be OK with the haters, the criticism, seeing unsubscribes from your email list.
If you can’t be OK with this, you may want to quit while you’re ahead (or, rather, quit before you’ve actually built up enough success for this stuff to start happening to you).
The truth is, you can’t stop it. It’s going to happen. The online world is full of creepy, annoying, mean, stupid people who have nothing better to do with their time than criticize others, hate on how hard you’re working and try to bring you down to their level.
But you don’t have to fall for it. You can hold a space in your heart for all the people who just don’t get it and never will. For the people who are going to die with their dreams inside them, because they just don’t have what it takes to make it happen.
And you’ve gotta have some compassion for that.
I used to get really upset by this kind of stuff—hate-mail, unsubscribes from my email list. It used to hurt me a lot, because I used to believe that I had to please everyone. That I had to appeal to everyone and everyone had to like me.
Now I know better.
Now I know that trying to appeal to and please everyone is a recipe for pleasing no one. It’s a recipe for keeping people on the fence about you.
And in the online world, that’s the worst thing you can do.
Sounds scary, right? Because we’ve been told that we have to be nice and sugar-coat things so that we don’t make people feel bad or so we don’t “outshine” them with our gifts.
If you’ve been around me long enough, you’ll know that I have only one thing to say to all of that nonsense: I don’t fucking think so.
The real truth is, if you want to be successful online, if you want to be a successful, thriving pro author in the digital age, you have to be OK with not pleasing everyone, not sugar-coating things, not caring if people get offended or if they don’t like you.
Success is built on being who you are, showing up as you fully, 100 percent of the time and being real with your audience/readers.
That was something that took me awhile to really get, because I grew up getting bullied for being different and for not conforming to what everyone else was doing. So when I started my blog back in 2008, I wanted to appeal to everyone. I wanted to help every writer in the world.
And I made zero impact. For an entire year.
Of course, I wasn’t really out there trying to make a big impact, but I was out there trying to get people to read my blog. And while I did get some readers (I think I had 25 by the end of the year), it wasn’t until I opened up to the idea that not only could I not please everyone, but I shouldn’t try, that things started to take off.
It was hard at first. When I first started blogging, I just wanted to be PC. I wanted to help everyone and I wanted to be liked by everyone.
Never going to happen.
And if you try, you’re totally wasting your time and you’re gonna end up not helping anyone and not making any kind of impact.
It wasn’t ’til I started being myself, writing in my voice, using my words (including the swear words that some people just don’t like) and writing about what I wanted to write about, when things got really good for me.
Yes, to this day (in fact, just yesterday morning) I still get haters and people who want to tell me I’m wrong and that they don’t like what I’m doing. I now choose to see that kind of stuff as a good thing.
If I was being plain-vanilla-boring, no one would care.
And as the great Jon Morrow says, if you’re not getting hate-mail on a regular basis, you’re doing something wrong.
If you want people to care about what you’re doing, to resonate with you and to stick around and eventually buy stuff from you (aka: your books!), you can’t worry about that stuff. You have to just go out there every day and be you to the fullest degree that you can.
Yes, some people will hate it. Some people will not want to follow you or will unsubscribe from your email list. And, yes, some people will make it a point to first tell you that they don’t like you or that they’re unsubscribing, because they can’t just go quietly. They have to make sure you know why they’re leaving.
And the reason is because when you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.
But by being you, unapologetically, you will call in your real tribe. The people who are meant to follow your stuff and meant to be on your email list. The ones who resonate so deeply with your words and what you’re creating in the world.
The ones who want to be a part of what you’re doing.
I like to write things that push buttons and piss people off. Because this helps me tighten my tribe. It helps me get rid of the people who don’t resonate with my message and who never will.
And it helps me get closer to the people who actually care, who actually want to hear from me, who actually see the value in what I do.
If you’re still here, you’re a part of my tribe. You’re an emerging novelist with big dreams who refuses to settle and who wants to make all your writing dreams come true.
Awesome. You’re meant to be here and I’m grateful that you are.
Big things are coming. For all of us.
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How do you deal with criticism that’s not constructive?