What a strange world this is of blogging on the Internet. It’s the loneliest, most private of worlds — until you publish something. Then — well, for the most part, not much happens. Sometimes, you hear from your friends and readers how they liked something. Other times, the silence is deafening. No wonder I talk to my cat. No wonder he’s starting to avoid me.
Yesterday, I posted an entry about an employee at Starbucks who annoyed me with his explosive enthusiasm. It wasn’t one of those posts I was crazy about, but I thought it was all right. In fact, I didn’t think about it much afterwards, till I got back from yoga and saw a comment had been posted at the Austin Statesman’s website, where I post a teaser for my blog.
Somehow, I knew it was going to be critical. But it was pretty brutal — more or less calling me on being an elitist who scorned a worker who was only trying to do his job. I hit delete and made the comment disappear immediately. So there, I thought. It was gone, as if it never existed.
Except, I kept thinking about it. I hate criticism as much as anyone. More, probably. But I’ve gotten better about it the older I’ve gotten, the more synapses that have probably gotten destroyed. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that criticism especially hurts when it scores some kind of bullseye. I could have looked back at my post and tried to justify, to myself, why it was really OK, not (as my critic put it) mean-spirited. But I didn’t want to re-read it. I had the feeling he was right. But it was too late. I’d already deleted the comment and the critic’s email address. I couldn’t do anything about it.
So I get up this morning and found my critic had tracked me to the original blog and had posted just about the same complaint (although not quite as strident). Talk about persistent! So I wrote him back — which you can see in the comments to the earlier post — telling him I thought he was right. He proceeded the write me a warm, charming email, thanking me for civility. I think we’re practically friends now.
It’s all, as I said earlier, such a strange world. But I always feel better when I’ve managed to eke out a lesson from one of my boneheaded mistakes. I’ll think a little more before I write after this. I’ll try harder to be kind. That’s the way I want to write; that’s the way I want to live.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)