For professional writers, negative comments are not personal attacks

Published by on December 3, 2016
Categories: Editing

A friend of mine I know in real life (nameless he shall remain because I do like him) posted a long whine on his Facebook page this morning. The whine was all about how he is “so tired of people putting words in my mouth, thinking they know how I feel, accusing me of things they know absolutely nothing about.”

This comes after several months of this fine fellow just letting fly about Donald Trump, whom he absolutely deplores. Further, anyone who happened to have supported, liked, or voted for Trump was insulted in such a wide variety of ways that I lost count. I stopped reading his posts because he was writing like a crazy person. Is this really the man I know?

Obviously it was because when he was called on it by others he dug in and got worse. His whine this morning followed the regular pattern of someone trying to justify their vitriol and blame the reader for their reactions. Here are thirteen markers of someone blaming the reader:

  1. He never meant to harm anyone.
  2. He was only exercising his First Amendment rights.
  3. Nobody but him wants to debate in a constructive manner.
  4. He didn’t say that.
  5. He didn’t mean that.
  6. The reader is picking on him.
  7. See! He is the victim!
  8. He hopes you are happy with picking on him.
  9. If somebody misunderstood him, then they are just stupid!
  10. And they are closed- and small-minded racists and bigots who want to live in AmeriKKKa.
  11. You won’t have him to pick on anymore because he’s gonna make a private page and only invite people who think like him.
  12. Yes, there are lots who think like him and he’ll invite them to that page. They’ll have fun together.
  13. And if anybody makes a post on his page and he doesn’t like it, he’s gonna hide it because it’s his page, so there.


That post of his perfectly underscores the need most people have for deploying the services of an excellent editor.

The nugget of a good idea was hidden in many of his posts, but he wrapped those nuggets inside a lot of flashy junk and was shocked with the pushback.

He’s like a lot of folks who think they are writing clearly and that everybody will understand their reasoned logic, so will not believe they need a second set of eyes on it and certainly would never pay for it.

They are surprised when others accuse them of writing a crazy rant or hurling insults. They believe the problem lies with the reader when, in point of fact, the problem is with the writer.

My friend is obviously not a professional writer and will never be one because he cannot stand to get any negative feedback. Having more sets of eyes on one’s writing is how a writer improves their craft.

From as far back as I can remember I’ve always had a way with words. Everybody said so. But to those teachers, editors, and other readers through the years who did not hesitate to speak up when what I wrote was unclear: Thank you. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

I’ve got an ego. I like it stroked. Who doesn’t, right?

But stroking an ego simply to have an ego stroked is wasted effort and produces nothing worthwhile, and it certainly does not improve one’s output or reputation.