By luck and delusion, I’ve had a few humor pieces published on the internet over the last few months. It is exciting and thrilling and crippling all at once. Whenever a new piece is accepted, my husband takes me out for an ice-cream cone or a See’s candy — if I had known being good at writing meant free dessert, I would have hustled harder sooner. I’m like Pavlov’s dog but with chocolate and fame.
But I knew to beware the haters. I’d heard they were out there, grazing through the internet, circling like trios of tweens, withering your self-esteem in 140 characters or less. And I was prepared. “My worth is not in this list of movie puns,” I reminded myself. But it’s impossible not to want someone to like your work, the work you wrote to be read.
I’d received reams of negative feedback of course, via rejection letters from magazines, writers’ workshops, professors, and–the biggest critic of all—myself.
But it happened… I got my first negative comment via the internet. It was not from a troll, someone I could imagine living in a basement with no interesting thoughts or feelings or friends, it was from a coworker. Someone I listen to and talk to and try to be kind to, who I thought would at the most be excited for me and at the least stay seething in silent jealousy.
Instead, she commented on Facebook that, “Wasn’t it funny how I was missing a period in one line and she couldn’t un-see it.” It’s not funny, it’s a typo. And it happens. The worst part is, my job is about 80% proofreading, and my typo is now public for my boss to see. If I can be so lazy in my passion projects, they must be wondering how I could ever care about editing I am paid to do.
I let myself stew in hurt and anger for a few hours, but then I felt like I had arrived as a writer. A real writer. A writer with whatever the opposite of fans is. I’ve got haters now, and they gonna hate, and I’m gonna channel their hate into even better writing, with so many periods my essays will be the written equivalent of an all girls’ school.
Around this same time, I started sending out a newsletter filled with personal, rather than fictional, stories; and I was nervous about sharing them every other week. “Now people will see my internal issues and my grammatical mistakes,” I thought. But so far, these little pieces have started conversations among family, friends and acquaintances, and hopefully my attempt at vulnerability makes people feel less alone. And that makes writing worth the risk that someone will see my flaws.
Lydia Oxenham is a South Carolina native living in Southern California. Sign up for her newsletter Lyd-life Crisis at tinyletter.com/lydlifecrisis, where she shares a humorous crisis in 200 words or less. Check out her humor writing at lydiaoxenham.tumblr.com.