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?"
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: