Back when I was teaching high school, one of my mentors told me the following: “Each parents' night, I hear 99 compliments and one insult, and all I can hear is the insult.” It was true for me then and, to a certain extent, it is still true for me as a writer. Though I'd guess I hear about 99 compliments for every 15-20 insults in these days of blogosphere bile. The filthy, teeming river of anonymous Internet comments is a reality into which I must occasionally wade, and the good news is that it has inured me to most nastiness. “You suck,” etc., has become so de rigeur, the equivalent of a drive-by flip-off. You'll have to wake up a bit earlier in the morning to get under my skin.
But every once in a while, someone writes something that truly baffles me. It's so passionate, and yet the message feels misplaced, as though someone screamed at me for being disgustingly tall. I don't like people yelling at me, and I believe that they believe what they're saying, so it kind of sucks, but it also just feels so … incorrect.
Thus was the case on a very silly story that I wrote about Halloween costumes for Salon. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate the gravity and importance of this story to be about a … oh, say, 2.5. I probably have grocery lists that had higher literary aspirations. Still, it's intended to be funny and interesting and light and all that business, and so I was somewhat surprised to find the following letter:
“It's not every writer who makes me feel less human after I read her work. Less glad to be alive. Less interested in reading ANYTHING by ANYBODY.
Please stop Hepola before she writes again. Or, at least don't publish it where Salon readers can see it. Isn't this sort of thing what un-viewed blogs are for?”
Wow. Well, thank you! I've never felt so understood before! If there's one thing I aim to do, it's to suck the lifeblood out of the people who read my work, rendering them disinterested in the entire medium in which I toil. Mission: Accomplished.
Happy Halloween, kids. It's a scary world out there.