Before I get started on today’s post, I want to state upfront that I’m not upset about anything. I don’t need advice or consolation. This post is meant to be a matter-of-fact look at a phenomenon I’ve noticed when it comes to people who dare to “put themselves out there” or share their creative pursuits. It certainly doesn’t just affect me, either, from which I take some solace. I’m just hoping that people who read this will stop and think about it a minute. The world needs less cynicism and meanness, and more kindness and compassion, don’t you think?
Have you ever noticed that some people delight in watching the whole world burn? They enjoy taking a big dump on other people’s joy. They live for raining on everyone else’s parades. They love criticizing anything and everything, even if it’s just someone’s creative expression. They lack the ability to simply “scroll on”. Instead, they feel the need to be negative, judgmental, insensitive and, sometimes, downright MEAN.
As a blogger and very occasional musician, I’ve run into this particular phenomenon more than a few times. When we lived in Stuttgart, I used to promote my travel blog. I did so because I truly thought some of the posts might be helpful for some people in the community. It was our second time living in that area, and I was pretty seasoned as a military spouse, even though Bill had retired. While not everyone likes what I do, writing has sort of become my vocation. Being a writer can be a tough road to hoe, as one chagrined author recently found out when almost no one showed up for her book signing. She tweeted about it, and was soon consoled by the likes of Margaret Atwood, Jodi Picoult, and Stephen King, among others, who were similarly dissed at early book signings.
Only 2 people came to my author signing yesterday, so I was pretty bummed about it. Especially as 37 people responded “going” to the event. Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.— Chelsea Banning Author (@chelseabwrites) December 4, 2022
Many people seemingly liked my blogs and, for awhile, they were pretty popular. I had a lot of regular readers. But there were also people in the community who seemed to hate my blog and apparently resented me for sharing it. Some didn’t like the name of the blog, assuming that I was “bragging” about my education. For the record, I’m not. I literally am overeducated for what I’ve done with my life so far. I spent seven years and many thousands of dollars on formal education that I’ve never gotten to use in a professional arena. While I don’t regret furthering my formal education, I mainly went to school out of a perceived need to do it– so I wouldn’t be waiting tables for the rest of my life. I’ve got nothing at all against people who wait tables for a living, but that’s a job that I really didn’t enjoy, even though I made good money doing it.
When I went to graduate school, I was hoping to launch a career that didn’t involve being abused on the daily and surviving on tips. I ended up meeting Bill, instead. The realities of life as a military spouse made pursuing my field problematic. I’ve always liked to write, so that’s what I do. I’m not the best writer, but I try. Some people enjoy my stuff. Some people don’t. I’ve made some money as a writer… actually more than I ever made doing social work or public health. And yet, I think if I’d been a public health social worker, I’d probably get a lot more respect for what I do.
I stopped sharing my blog in military communities, though, because I’ve found that people are triggered by it, for some reason. A lot of people– especially in military communities— find bloggers annoying, especially when they dare to call themselves “The Overeducated Housewife”. Personally, I think it’s because a lot of people in military communities are sexist, and too many of them disdain the spouses (really the wives). The more educated and accomplished the wives are, the less the servicemembers tend to like them, especially if they’re also liberal. And sadly, a lot of the spouses also buy into that limited mindset, willingly referring to themselves by derogatory monikers, like “dependa” instead of insisting on being treated with the basic respect one generally extends to human beings. So, because I don’t enjoy being ridiculed, and I don’t like to bother other people, I’ve decided that it’s better to let people find the blogs on their own.
I also stopped sharing my travel blog in military communities because of the weird, intrusive, psycho landlady situation we’d had in Stuttgart. A former tenant, who had lived in our home just prior to us, had found her way to my regular blog, and was using it to cause trouble with our ex landlady. The ex tenant got upset with me about one of my creative writing projects, which she had freely CHOSEN to read and falsely interpret. She’d actually been following my blogs for over four years, even though it was evidently a negative experience for her. She sent me a nasty message, mocking me for “intruding on my space” and interfering with my “creative pursuits”, clearly indicating that she didn’t appreciate my efforts, and basically calling me “crazy”. It was at that point that I decided to close the Blogger version of this blog and move it to WordPress. Then, I went right back to doing what I do. She, on the other hand, went on to commit suicide. I don’t know what led her to take that action, but I did realize, at that point, that I wasn’t the one with the worst issues. I don’t want a repeat of that bizarre situation, though, so I’ve gone back under the radar.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m not looking for sympathy when I write about this. I’ve come to understand that no one bats 1000 every time. Not everything a person does is going to be well-received. And even if you aren’t a creative type, chances are excellent that someone is going to dislike you, for whatever reason. Even if you’re the nicest, most considerate, most tolerant, least offensive person on the planet, there will be someone out there who is going to find fault with anything and everything you do. As painful as that kind of rejection can be, I’ve found it helpful to realize that in those situations, it’s almost always not about anything you’ve done or said. The negativity is usually about something intrinsic to the critical person– in other words, you might remind them of something negative, so they respond to you with negativity, even if you haven’t specifically done anything to them to cause that reaction.
Here’s an example. My sophomore year in college was rather traumatic. I spent it sharing living space with a woman who drove me crazy. We were very incompatible roommates. A few years later, I met another woman who reminded me a LOT of the first woman who drove me batty my sophomore year in college. Upon meeting her, I instantly had a negative reaction, even though we didn’t know each other. As time went on, I still disliked that woman, partly because she reminded me so much of someone I used to know who drove me nuts. It wasn’t her looks that reminded me of my ex roommate, but more her behavior that I found reminiscent. In spite of those similarities, I know she was, and still is, a good person. However, even if I had never gotten to know the first woman, I probably still would have found the second one annoying. The difference would be that I would have found her annoying solely because of things she’d actually done or said, not because she reminded me so much of someone else I hadn’t liked.
The same thing can happen in creative pursuits. A lot of people love the song, “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” by Meat Loaf. I don’t like that song, although it is in my musical catalog. It’s not that I don’t think Meat Loaf had talent, or even that the song isn’t entertaining. If I’d heard it in the 70s, I probably would have liked it a lot more. But it reminds me of an awful night in 1994, I spent at a party with my cousin. She had abandoned me to make out with her boyfriend, while her boyfriend’s extremely drunk father kept hitting on me. Before the evening went into full swing, I heard “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” for the very first time, while we were waiting for my cousin’s boyfriend in that yucky drunk man’s house. Drunk dad had wanted me to go back to his house with him, alone, to wait for his son and my cousin. He was so drunk he could barely keep his eyes open. When I refused, he called me a “bitch”. So now, whenever I heard Meat Loaf’s best known anthem, it reminds me of that guy. I am only now getting to the point at which I can disassociate that song with the memory of that gross guy who went to high school with one of my uncles and apparently wanted to deflower me.
Last weekend, I was feeling inspired to make music. I made two videos in one day, which is unusual in and of itself, especially since Bill was at home. I usually prefer to make music when I’m alone. I uploaded the videos. One has me on camera, and the other is set to photos. I don’t like to sing on camera, but I’ve found that people tend to find the videos with me in them more engaging. They don’t even seem to mind that I’m not wearing makeup or a bra.
One of the songs I did last week was James Taylor’s version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I was inspired to make the video by my former therapist, who loves James Taylor’s music, just as I do. He had mentioned that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is his favorite Christmas song. So, I made a recording of that song and dedicated it to my former shrink. He shared it on his personal Facebook page and tagged me. One person commented, and said “I love that song too, but no one does it as well as Judy [Garland] does.” I noticed that the person hadn’t even listened to the song, and apparently never considered that I would read her comment, which was actually kind of thoughtless and rude. I wonder if this person thinks that no one should ever sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (a Christmas standard), simply because “Judy did it best”.
An old friend of mine said the same thing about “The Rainbow Connection”. I had used the song on a tribute video I made for our dog, MacGregor– Willie Nelson was singing it. I love Willie’s version, and the fact that I used it for a tribute video for a beloved dog makes it especially poignant to me. My friend, who even knew MacGregor, said that no one but Kermit the Frog should ever sing “The Rainbow Connection”. I found that comment thoughtless and insensitive; yet knowing her as well as I do, I realize that her thoughtlessness was entirely unintentional. I didn’t call her out about it. Still, it would have been nicer if she’d kept that thought to herself.
I later noticed that my Christmas video for my ex shrink/current friend, which hasn’t done nearly as well as the other one I did last weekend, had one dislike rating. Two people liked it, and one disliked it… giving it a score of 66% (a failure if we were going by school grading scales). It occurred to me that the “dislike” button is kind of worthless, since there’s no way to know what the person disliked about the video. Was it because I wasn’t on camera? Was it the music? Were they just being mean to me? It’s impossible to know. But I had made the video with love and good intentions, and had dedicated it to someone who helped me a lot when I really needed help.
I’ll admit, those two negative reactions to my version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” kind of hurt my feelings. But the wiser side of me realizes that the negative reactions weren’t really personal, since the people involved don’t know me. Everyone’s a critic, and even the best people get criticized sometimes, and the better a person is, the meaner the critics tend to be. Even James Taylor gets mean tweets! See the hilarious video below…
I’ve also noticed that some people feel like creative pursuits shouldn’t result in anyone making money. I’ve ranted many times in this blog about people who don’t think they should have to pay to read newspapers. They don’t seem to realize that journalists have bills to pay, just like they do. It takes time, money, and training to skillfully deliver the news. They bitch and moan about paywalls.
My mom ran a knitting and needlepoint shop for many years. She is very talented and skilled with needlecrafts. Lots of people felt that her time and talents weren’t worth paying for. Mom was also a church organist for 50 years, and some people felt that she should just be willing to play for the glory of God, rather than money to pay her expenses. It took a lot of time and energy to learn how to play the organ as well as she did… I’m sure she could play beautifully today, too, but she’s pretty much retired from playing the organ now. She’s still stitching, though. Below is my mom with one of her more recent creations, done even though she’s in her 80s. I love what my mom does, although I could never do anything like this myself. I’d rather write or sing… two things my mom doesn’t do.
Anyway… to wrap up this post, I’d like to add one more observation I’ve made. At this writing, I have 109 YouTube subscribers. That’s not a lot of subscribers. I’ve had my channel since 2009 or so, but I’ve never really promoted it. When I first started the channel, I mostly used it for uploading videos from our travels or other random stuff. It wasn’t until I’d had it for about three years that I started making music videos, which I never really shared. And it wasn’t until last spring that I ever showed myself on camera.
YouTube recently told me that I gained 20 subscribers this year, which is a pretty amazing thing. I recently uploaded a video and promptly lost two subscribers. I was feeling kind of sad about it, since I had only recently surpassed 100 subscribers, and YouTube had congratulated me for that. But then, I got seven more subscribers! I guess that just goes to show you that sometimes, even if someone takes a dump on something you put out there, other people will still like what you do. So the best thing to do is keep going and ignore the “haters”. Their negativity is usually much more about them, than you. And creative pursuits, especially when a person feels compelled to engage in them, aren’t for anyone or anything else than satisfying that itch to create… put something out there. Maybe it won’t be what everyone likes, but you still made the effort. And I guarantee, there’s an appreciative audience for everything.
Maybe a couple of people decided to crap on my version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, but the person it was meant for got it… and apparently enjoyed it. So that’s really all that matters. The rest of them can take a cue from Miley Cyrus’s reaction to “mean tweets”… See the featured photo.