You’re nobody till somebody hates you

hatemail_powerbooktrance

There’s a way things work.

F’r’instance, as part of your ongoing excavation of Mt. What Comes Next, you’ll have a series of serious and heartfelt conversations about where you’re headed, and how you’re sure if you’re going to keep moving forward you need to jettison some of this crap you’ve hauling around with you even though you’re damned if you know where all of this forward stuff is leading to.

And the people you have them with will bring up this or that, but especially the column you’ve been writing for over three years, and ask you “Well, what about that? Is it really serving you anymore?”

And your answers will range from “I don’t know” to “Every time I swear I’ll quit, I get another note about how much it’s helping” to “Ugh.”

And the “Ugh.” comes from what you do know: that this project you started as an experiment, as the impetus to write seriously every month (or as seriously as someone who pens songs about the effect of flatulence on butter can write), and to do it on a deadline, on one particular topic to a particular audience, has hit The Dip, and you’re not sure if it, indeed, is The Dip, or just time to go. You can stay anywhere you want, but you can’t stay here.

The suggestion is gently made that perhaps you consider (excuse me while I lift this cheek) monetizing the project. I mean, sure you’ve scored a whopping c-note for every 1,000-word gem you’ve submitted, but maybe something more than shared-hosting-space money. Maybe turning it into a book that said actor-types could mark up and carry around, or even buy from you as a token of their apparent appreciation (they’re quite appreciative via the email and the Facebook and even the rare in-person opportunities). Or maybe with a little imagination and effort you could even turn it into (again, excuse me, it’s the beans) an information product, a “teleclass” or “webinar” or “electronic download” exchangeable for cash-money via the PayPal.

And a part of you agrees that yes, of course you could but also that no, that just doesn’t feel right. Not quite. Not now.

And as you think about pulling the trigger on your resignation, a few more thank-you emails roll in, and your submission deadline looms, and you think, “One more month. I’ll just table it for one more month.”

And then you get a piece of hate mail.

You’ve heard about these, of course, from your friends who are well ahead of you on the path to that mythical land of Internet Fame; over the years, you yourself have received the odd, gripe-y comment from an Aspy reader off his meds. But this one? This one is venomous. It accuses you of all sorts of indecencies you fear and despise, and in sneering, disdainful, umbrage-laden rage: hackery, for starters, and bad intent (isn’t that what all anonymous disgruntled folk claim?) but worst of all to you, it accuses you of irrelevance.

Irrelevance. That, you have a harder time shaking off.

Because you have, after all, been out of the game yourself for over four years, which is something you not only share openly and often, but which, of late, has been nagging at you as well: how great a level of utility can you provide your audience of working and even aspiring so-and-so’s when you yourself kissed it all goodbye four years ago? And yes, you still regularly receive grateful, gracious, loving notes out of nowhere from strangers and former colleagues, thanking you for your work, describing in heart-warming detail how it has helped them in real and significant ways, telling you how happy they are to have information served up in a way that feels caring and makes them feel cared-for.

Irrelevant, irrelevant, irrelevant.

There are mirrors everywhere. Some of them are in darker, danker dressing rooms than you care to visit, but when you find yourself staring into one, you must still look at what is looking back at you and ask the question: What of this is the truth? And what must I do about it?

xxx
c


12 comments

  1. Ouch. I’ve gotten a fair share of hate mail through my two websites (not my blog thankfully) and each time it revs me up to the point where it actually winds up being beneficial in the long run. I get mad, get defensive and then sometimes realize my reaction is because there is a tiny mite of truth to some of it and then I do something about of it. Course, often a hate mail writer speaks from jealousy and there isn’t any truth in it, just pure venom.

  2. I once interviewed the legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight because (get this) I wanted to find out if what was said in the media ever hurt his feelings. He told me that with most reporters, if they ever agreed with him he would think that he was wrong!

    I’m not so evolved it doesn’t bother me when strangers take issue with my work. Here’s hoping it isn’t tacky to respond to one blog post by pointing to another, but my seven-year-old daughter once told me she isn’t interested in hearing me whine about bad reviews–and you can read more here…

    http://www.thecareerclinic.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=decide-for-yourself.html&Itemid=141

    Keep these coming, Colleen. You’re the greatest!

    Maureen

  3. irrelevance? and i suppose the humor of writing someone to TELL them of their irrelevance was entirely lost on this author. it’s so sad, hate mail deserves to be edited for context, too, hatey haters!

    well, you wouldn’t be a good, conscious, breathing, considerate virgo if you hadn’t at least looked at what they wrote objectively. but ask yourself, when was the last time you wanted to author a letter like this–and send it–for real? and then figure, regardless of what they have to say about you, it’s probably just as distorted as the supposition that you would take this letter and go hate yourself for a year just because they told you to.

    another way to think about it is with compassion for the person who wasted half a day trying to take you down instead of just moving on to something more meaningful in their lives. they hurt our feelings, sure, but they think they have so much more control than they do. are we supposed to run to the bathroom mirror, study ourselves, scream OMG SHE’S RIGHT, I AM A TOTAL HACK! AAAAHHHH!!! take every pill in the cabinet, cry on the floor, maybe wander the streets drunk till we get to a bridge and say “goodbye cruel world, full of sincere wonderful people, there is one less irrelevant hack among you!” i mean come on, all that scriptwriting talent being wasted on hatey emails?!!? LAME!

  4. I’m so sorry you got hate-mail. Rotten, rotten. No one should have to read hate-mail. (unless their name is Dick Cheney.) So does this mean you’re somebody now? Hell, Colleen, we all knew you were somebody all along. xox.

  5. I’m not overly fond of Nietzsche for various reasons, & I’m sure you’ve read this but thought of it while reading about your hate stuff. So I’ll just paraphrase here: Whoever fights monsters should beware lest she become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

    So, Please-Don’t let any of those monster creeps suck you down into those filthy holes where they love to lurk & leer. For my own very selfish reasons, Colleen, I need you to stay up here in the light where you belong; and because by reading your stuff, I’m feel like I really can find my own way back.

  6. Thanks for the validation, all. VERY much appreciated, as I’ll confess to being a delicate fucking flower any day of the week.

    To be clear(er)—because sometimes clarity is difficult when I put on my Big Girl Pants and write in the second person, as above—the hater-writer was responding specifically to my marketing column for actors. And while his/her math is a bit off, I haven’t been a working actor (something I’m quite open about) for four years now, which could be rendering some of what I say irrelevant. I’m pretty careful to stick to stuff that’s still relevant for *anyone* using the social web, but still. Point taken. (Hell, point delivered myself, as I said.)

    If all goes well with the blog, I’m sure the haters will eventually come out of the woodwork here, too. It’s pretty much inevitable, from what I’ve seen. And I’m sure there will be some teensy-weensy morsel of truth in what they say, too. Again, inevitable.

    One thing that always tempers my reaction is that they’re writing anonymously whereas I’m doing everything with almost complete transparency. (There are some details I’ll always keep to myself either because they’re not salient to the discussion here or because they intersect with someone else’s privacy.)

    If someone signs a name to something, or tells me to my face, I give that a whole hell of a lot more consideration. I’d still consider it, but I’d give it more weight than I do some slam from a random coward.

  7. I’m feeling pretty bold in saying that my column on Monday, fueled by loads of recent mail-d’hate balanced w/ love mail, HEAPS of love mail, is gonna be damn good.

    My take on it (as they say in the J-school lessons), is that there’s one message for every ten to one hundred readers who feel the same. I like to believe that my fan mail represents HUNDREDS of others. And my hate mail represents a TEN. Or so. And they’re all, actually, illiterate fucktards filled with bitterness over how far they’ve not yet come. And I empower loads of folks with ways to DO BETTER. And they do. And that further pisses off the “I deserve it” types who have a ZIP code of 9021-Bitter.

    Best thing to note is this: When you’re done writing your thing, you’re done. If you keep showing up and doing it, you’re not done. I’m not done yet. I know that if I got downsized at any given time, I’d still have to put these words out on my blog or at the Facebook. I can’t just call it quits. Yet. And I suspect you can’t either, or you’d stop showing up at the keyboard.

    Not tell you how it is for you. Just how it is for me. :) And I do love having your words to read every month or so. And here. And at the Twitter. So, take the good folks’ money for putting stuff out there at the place that pays. Nothing wrong with that! And you always have something to say. Not because of what you WERE but because of who you ARE and what you KNOW and what you SEE and how you INTERPRET that.

    If they’d rather read a column by someone who books work as an actor regularly but who can’t follow an AP Style Manual or who tweets for status when her means of gathering followers is by following MANY (*shudder*) who say nothing, let ’em. But as long as you’re being offered bucks to show up and share what you know (and as long as it’s not killing you to do it), do it.

    Many of us say a big-ass thanks to you for that. And more.

    And when are you gonna publish that book-type thing?
    XO
    -Bon.

  8. You know what works for you. You’ve got a clear and consistent voice and the mocker/hater is just being hurtful.

    I mean what happened to “if you don’t like, don’t read it.” I mean really is he/she out to save humanity from your misinformation?

    Gah.

    We love you. We’d pay money to love you in print too.

    Go on now.

  9. IF YOU DON’T WRITE THIS BOOK, THEN I’M NOT SURE THERE’S ANY REASON FOR ME TO GO ON. . CAN YOU SAY FOR CERTAIN YOU’D REALLY BE OK KNOWING THAT? I DON’T EVEN CARE THAT I’M TRYING TO THROW A GUILT TRIP-AND ON YOU, YOU OF ALL PEOPLE!!

    OK, I’M NOT PROUD. HOW ABOUT HANDS CLASPED, ON MY KNEES BEGGING– PLEASE WRITE THE DAMN BOOK PLEASE?

    I’LL BUY IT! I’LL PREORDER ON AMAZON RIGHT AWAY, I SWEAR! HARDBACK, PAPERBACK, HELL..I DON’T CARE WHAT FORM IT TAKES, AS LONG AS IT’S SOMETHING I CAN HOLD IN MY HANDS AND TURN THE PAGES. I’LL EVEN CONTRIBUTE WHATEVER I CAN TO HELP W/ COSTS, IF THAT’S WHAT IT’LL TAKE.

    Ok, I’ll stop now. But I sure would love to have your book.
    OK now I’m really done.

  10. I’ve only been following your blog for a short time, but I’m here because I think you’re a great writer. & I like your spunk.

    I’d be pretty disappointed if you stopped writing.

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