Friday, October 14, 2011

How To Deal With Senseless Criticism

A few days ago I had the absolute pleasure of talking to the most opinionated seventeen-year-old I have ever met at a school drama rehearsal for Macbeth.

Lies, that was all sarcasm. It was probably the least pleasurable thing I've done all week. Let me explain. For anonymity's sake, I will call this particularly person Rage - which, of course, has no connection whatsoever with the actual meaning of that word.

Anyway, I happened to be sitting near Rage offstage during one of the scenes in which neither of us were acting. I looked over at another guy next to me who was studying out of a massive biology textbook, and remarked, knowing that biology wasn't exactly his favourite subject, "Science, huh? Stink."

He didn't even get a chance to respond. "What do you have against science?" Rage snapped.

"Well, it's boring." I do have better reasons for not enjoying the science subjects at school - such as that they are a lot less analytical and creative than courses like history and English - but this was all I could thing of at the time.

Suddenly Rage slammed his hand against the desk around which we were seated and glared at me. "Well then you can **** back off to the Middle-Ages."

I know, right? What did I do? It was in this moment that I realised that I had probably engaged in this conversation with the wrong person. Probably. But I couldn't take it back now - I had to say something. Stay calm. Just be polite. Diplomacy.

"Well, hey, I'm just saying. We all have those things we enjoy, and those things that we don't. You like science, I don't. I'm more into writing and such."

His next sentence contained no fewer than five swear-words, and so I decided that it'd be better if I just didn't say anything else. But he seemed to be enjoying insulting me, because after a while he scowled at my silence and said, "I guess next you're going to tell me that you're going to get a B.A.?"

It's hard to ignore questions. "Yea, actually."

Rage swore again, looking at me as if I had just stabbed someone. "And study what?"

"English." Duh.

All of a sudden he laughed. Not, like, a normal laugh that you hear all the time when you tell a funny joke. But, instead, an evil laugh - one of those ones that you only hear in movies. I silently wondered if he'd been practicing it. "My mum graduated uni with a B.A.," he said. "Now she works in the ****ing hardware store."

I ignored him. A few minutes later an unvoiced thought ran through my head: J.K. Rowling graduated uni with a B.A., and now look where she is.

*     *     *     *     *

Okay. I decided to share this story because the truth is that people are going to criticise you for the single reason that you love to write - doesn't matter what you write or the quality of it. Some will be more abrasive than others. Some will be straight up rude.

But you can't let it get to you. You can't let words crush your ambitions.

I have a dream, and I know that one day I will achieve it. I know that making it in the writing industry is tough - I think we all do. I know the risks. But becoming a published novelist is still my dream - and until I get there, it always will be.

So, secretly (between me, you, and the rest of the world), I hope that Rage takes his precious B.Sc. and follows his mum straight into that hardware store, while I spend the rest of my life doing what I love.

And next time you receive senseless insults or criticism, just remember:


  1. Don't you just pity/dislike those people? I had a guy ask what I was going to major in, and when I said History and English he actually said, "Oh, so something you can't use in the real world." -_-
    Unfortunately since he was a customer so I couldn't even have the satisfaction of walking away. Sigh. Someday those people will understand how important writing is.

  2. Absolutely. It's horrible when this happens, isn't it? Oh well. Life goes on, I guess.

    Actually, in the deleted scenes of this post I said a few words on the significance of writing, which Rage shunned quite ferociously. Such a shame, really. :/

  3. Wow. That was pretty harsh of that guy. I feel sorry for him, actually. He'll never know the joy of what you are doing. More than likely he has deeper issues, perhaps completely unrelated. Sounds like you handled it well, though. Good work.

  4. Yeah, that guy. Don't worry about him Nick, he's pretty much an arrogant arse. But for some reason whenever he goes on about that it cracks me up, because I know that his opinions are so needlessly aggressive that it actually becomes lots of fun winding him up! I know, it's bad, but you know that you're going to do well with your life and that's all that matters. The funny thing about him is that he is a massive hippocrit. He says he's a science man, and hates the arts completely. And yet,
    He does drama.
    He says he loathes anything that isn't a mathematical or scientific based subject, yet, he was a drummer in my band for over a year.
    He's a hippocrit, and it makes me laugh that he thinks the arts is a waste of time, because it isn't.
    He hates creativity, but, I have at a time caught him out, in saying that the arts cannot live without science, and vice versa. Creativity fuels the life-span of science and Science brings new life to the creative mind.
    "Rage" basically, is laughable.

    Hope that makes you feel better, and make sure to never take what he says seriously!
    And his mother is lovely.
    I actually have NO idea what happened to make him such a violent numpty.

  5. @Kathryn: Thanks. It was a kinda weird situation for me. At least he's got his own interests he can enjoy.

    @Graeden: That guy. Yea, at least I wasn't too bothered by him. Haha, and I was talking to Jordan, who says that talking to Rage about studying philosophy at uni will really make him flip out.
    That's interesting, actually, because that's one of the things that confused me. He was ripping on me for not liking science when I bet several others in the class were the same, you included. Aaaand he does drama. Strange.
    Oh well, no harm done. And I'm sure his mum is nice :)

  6. That's good, but yeah, he's QUITE a character really. Ohhh YES that would REALLY flip him out and it would be hilarious!
    And he's a very peculiar character, would make for an interesting novel actually... ooh... ideas! She is, always offered food and whatnot, very lovely to talk to and such, it's a shame Rage thinks so little of her..

  7. Mmmm ... yes, he's an interesting one.

  8. Great advice, Nick but it is kinda hard to ignore harsh, senseless words. Especially those said with the sole intention of crushing a person. It really is an attempt to usurp power don't you think? A kind of verbal bullying?

  9. It is, yea. But to be honest, I don't really mind senseless criticism, senseless being the key word. I know that the people who say that kind of thing aren't even worth paying any attention to. What's harder to deal with is people who actually pick you apart and explain why you're worth insulting. That's horrible.

  10. There are people in this world that will try to tear others down simply because they can. They like to get others riled up--and if you fall for it, they win, whether their argument is valid or not.

    I applaud you for being so calm in that situation. "Rage" sounds so much like a few people I know. I just learned to ignore them, because you're right, their criticism is completely senseless.

  11. Lovely story, or should I say frightening story but your take on it was lovely.

  12. @Rachel: Yea, ignoring them is the best :D

    @KO: Thanks. I try my best :P

  13. Hey! I found your blog through Yvie's (and I'm a campaigner also). Just want to say that I have a BA in English. There are quite a few options with this degree, but, yeah, it has a reputation for impracticality. I sold my dad on it by telling him I'd go into teaching (and I did before starting a family). But my fellow English buddies went on to be lawyers, editors, teachers, and all of them writers. I am in awe of how well you know yourself and what you want. That other guy? He's going to find it hard going, I think.

  14. Oh, sweet! Cool, I suppose there are some good uses for an English degree (and I've thought about doing teaching before), but mainly I just want to go to uni for the experience and because it will broaden my knowledge base :P

    Thanks for your comment :)


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