Growing as a writer (or anything really, but in this case writing) means learning to swat away condescension and staying prolific amid negativity. It’s an ongoing struggle that few really master — I certainly haven’t — but it’s not without its small triumphs along the way. One such moment for me was the second run-in with a person who had gotten under my skin years before.
Walking into an evening event center after a presentation, I had one of those moments where the folks I wanted to talk to her busy with someone else and someone I was far less enthusiastic about stopped me first. Her stance between me and the event host was almost defensive, like as though I’d need to deal with her to prove myself worthy before going forth.
“Ah, the blogger,” she said with something of a smirk. To appreciate this, we need to go back a couple years.
It’s almost exactly how she’d regarded me the last time we’d run into each other some time back, and it stung a lot the first time around. The was a certain pull to the word as she said it, making it clear she saw blogging as some sort of inferior subspecies of writing. But it wasn’t simply knowing her feelings on the word blogger that held contention for me.
Blogging, while fun, has been a fairly minor part of the writing I’d done even then. To label me as a blogger when she knew me locally was to ignore everything else I’d done, marking her as either too arrogant/lazy to bother knowing that or too much of an instigator to acknowledge it. I had no problem being identified that way other than knowing that in her mind she’d insulted me. Real writers write books, she seemed to say.
When I first encountered her while networking I was still trying out my wings in professional writing and was very thin-skinned. (I could still stand to thicken my skin more, but I’ve gotten better over the years.) I’d heard more about her than she probably had me, and put a lot of stock in what I’d heard. Taking comments like that way too seriously, my mistake was often assuming the judgement of one person represented the public at large or that that person’s opinion was even relevant.
Flash back to the present and it pleased me when she said those words. Her meaning was probably the same as before, but this time I had the wisdom to understand that this was more a reflection of her than me. She was either ignorant or a bully, which suddenly made her seem much smaller than before. We had a brief conversation following the remark, at which point I made no effort to delay being pulled in another direction to talk to the event’s host as he approached. I kept my chin up, held eye contact, and answered all questions with enthusiasm (but asked none in return).
I have a personal saying I’ve developed over the years for when a person is making an ass of themselves while talking, often while trying to one-up someone else. “The best comeback I could give is to let you keep talking.” I rarely say this out loud, but it buzzes through my mind as I listen to them prattle on with the crack of an amused smile forming.
It speaks to a book I’ve been enjoying recently, Stephen King’s On Writing. Among many things he mentions that every writer who has ever put himself out there has had people try to make them feel lousy for it. Whether it’s friends, family, or colleagues saying “You’re wasting your time/talent!” or critics dropping barbed remarks, it’s something that can’t be avoided and can only be overcome.