Winston Churchill said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
You don’t have haters because you are a loser. You have haters because you are the opposite of a loser.
You have them because you are doing something amazing, pushing your boundaries and showing up on the writing ring every single time.
Here is my story, what I have learned about hatred and how I healed from it and continued my writing journey regardless of what everyone thinks about me.
When I was 21, I signed the contract with a (quite unfamous, as it later turned out) publishing house for indie authors. My first book was released in April 2015, in my country (Poland). I felt accomplished, proud and happy. Then, haters started rolling in. They insulted me, my work and even the publishing house I’ve chosen.
In the beginning, I sought reviews as a form of validation. I didn’t trust I was a good writer so I needed someone else to tell me this. And when I heard the opposite – I cried. I felt angry, misunderstood, unappreciated and invalidated as an author. It really sucked.
Later, I discovered that some of my hate reviews were written by a person whom I considered to be one of my best friends. It was an incredible shock. I didn’t know what to feel. I was dealing with three things at once: personal betrayal, lack of professionalism in writing community and hatred. Because I knew who this person was and where they lived, I sued them for defamation. That particular case of hatred was stopped, but in general, my book keeps being trash talked in Poland up to this day.
Do I care? No.
Was it easy, to stop caring? No. But I succeeded. And today, I am sharing with you how I did it; step by step.
- I decided to take some time off from writing and I focused on what was going well in my life. I had an amazing relationship, I was studying in the country of my choice (China), and I spent my weekends sightseeing with people from all around the globe. I enjoyed everything. And I developed the attitude: “Maybe I’m not an amazing my writer, but who cares – I’m still a happy person, and this is what matters the most.”
- I understood that people’s opinions on art will always be very subjective. Take “50 shades of Grey”. Some people will be positive about this book, others will be negative. Who is right? Who is wrong? It’s not easy to say. Art is not a mathematical problem. Yes, there are literary critics who can judge the value of the book in the cultural context of a society. But most readers are plain Mias and Michaels who read for fun. Sometimes they like what they read, sometimes they don’t. It’s natural. (Related article: My friend wrote a mediocre book. Should I give them 5 stars just because I like them?)
- I understood the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. I wrote more about it in here: When constructive criticism becomes destructive: is your beta reader a bully?.
- I understood that hatred is worthless as an opinion and hence, I don’t have to care about it. Receiving hatred is not different from being bullied. I used to be bullied at school. It taught me that people are against me, that I am weak and can’t defend myself. Were those valuable life lessons that enhanced the quality of my day-to-day existence? Not at all. After I graduated, I realized that many people are positive about me, that I can cope with life quite well and also defend myself – if I need to. You are not required to take hatred to heart and think about it, and let it affect you. You can give yourself permission to let it go. If it makes you feel bad, don’t even read it. “Never believe a prediction that doesn’t empower you,” said Sean Stephenson.
- I spent time alone with my novel. First of all, I re-read it and let myself fall in love with it all over again. Then, I used all the skills and knowledge I had, to figure out how I could improve this text. I deleted 20-30 pages, simplified unnecessarily complicated paragraphs, rewrote some scenes and decided to get a different cover (still in progress). I made my novel even better than it was before hatred and I planned to re-publish it somewhere else as well as do proper marketing. By designing a better future for this book I felt I was making up for its sad past. And even though it’s still a work in progress right now, the only idea has made me feel much better.
- I had a visualization where I talked to my characters about the problem. When you can’t feel the love of your readers, feel the love of your characters. Hang out with them in one of your novel settings and let them comment on the situation instead of you. I assure you that it will make you feel better instantly. I have a visualization to this epic cover of “Umbrella” by Rihanna. “Umbrella” is not really my favorite song, but when I was starting to write “Mermaid Princess Amelia & The Lost Symphony” (Polish Title: “Dokąd teraz popłynę?”), “Umbrella” was played in every radio. It reminds me of the beginnings, and how much love I had for Amelia (the protagonist). When I feel discouraged, I see myself all alone, on a rainy night in a sci-fi cityscape; then, Amelia walks to me and opens an umbrella above my head, saying: “you had my heart, and we’ll never be worlds apart” (part of the lyrics). The bond that I have with Amelia is much stronger than any hater’s words, so it helps me.
- I had a visualization where I sat with my past writer self and encouraged her. If you were about to talk to your inner writer, who is feeling completely broken right now, what would you tell them? I never blamed myself for writing poorly. I did my best at the time. I am always doing my best.
- I realized that the hatred wasn’t going to stop me from what I love. My love for writing, together with my desire to share the worlds I’ve created, is like an eternal fire in my heart – it will never stop. I told myself: “I’ve overcome so many obstacles on my writing journey and I am not going to let a bunch of haters stop me from living my purpose”.
- I asked successful writers for encouragement. A truly successful writer will always try to help you as much as they can. They can suggest you ways which you wouldn’t even think about. (Related articles: What to do if you feel lonely as a writer? and Why dealing with social anxiety is so important if you are an author). If you’ve been hated and don’t have anyone to talk to, you can always send me an e-mail.
- I ventured to build a better future for myself as a writer. I started researching the ways of successful writers, especially – Joanna Penn and Jeff Goins. I learned how to build an audience, how to get reviews as an unknown author, how to self-publish abroad. I realized that people will buy anything – if it’s well marketed. And so, I started learning marketing.
And here is what happened less than a year later: the number of my followers rocketed from 5 to over 8000, my newest novel got reblogged 70 times, and I started receiving compliments from strangers. Now, when I see I get negative reviews or hatred, I just shrug my shoulders. I really don’t care about this anymore. Because I know my worth. I know what I am doing. I believe in my success.
Haters gonna hate.
But writers… Writers gonna write.
Don’t let anyone stop you from what you truly want from your life.
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