“Pay no attention to what the critics say… Remember, a statue has never been set up in honor of a critic!” – Jean Sibelius
It’s easy to like the above quote, yet quite another challenge to take it’s advice. We, as artists, want to inspire, move, touch, and inform people. We generally want our work (and by extension us) to be liked and appreciated. I mean, we’re pouring our hearts out here!
Yet, it’s inevitable, some people just aren’t going to be picking up what you’re putting down. If you’re putting your work online, you’ve undoubtably encountered the Troll. Those poor excuses for humanity who usually have laughable grammar, too much time to hide behind a keyboard typing out things they’d never have the guts to say in person and, clearly, no soul.
In my head I used to cast them all as pimply 13 year olds who will grow up to be perma-virgins (that’s meta – I just trolled all Trolls), but just so we’re all on the same page, let’s all agree that from here on out all Trolls look like this:
This is one of Wendy Pini’s amazing creations in the world of ElfQuest and his name is Picknose. Knowing that truuufsayer11789 could actually named Picknose and look like this somehow takes the edge off his comments, yes?
With a few strokes, these Trolls virtually poo on the show you slaved over, the song inspired by your mother, or the performance you were proud of. Try as you might, those comments always hurt our hearts on some level and usual spark an initial desire to attack back.
Take a breath and realize that such feedback has much more to do with the commenter than the commented upon. Online comments offer the unique opportunity to interact with your audience and grow a very invested and connected fan base, and while I’ve been tempted to disable comments to avoid Troll bites, wiser heads than mine encouraged me to be brave. Now I encourage you.
Overall, you will never regret opting to play the grace card. You want to respond, to defend yourself or your team, I get that. However, leaving a reply that’s snarky, flippant or mean will just taint you in the eyes of all the other fans and potential fans (more than just the Troll are reading your replies). Plus, Trolls will always have more time to reply back than you do, don’t get caught in the quicksand.
Instead, see it as an opportunity. First, thank them for watching (Point for you – they may not have loved it, but they just increased your view count!). Then, from a place of kindness, if they posed a question or concern, you can let them know why you did things the way you did. Stay rational, not emotional, but you can certainly appeal to their emotions (ie: “Thank you so much for watching! Working on this meant so much to me…”). I’ve also found that writing back with a virtual wink or a tad of humor can sometimes tame a Troll.
Unfortunately, there is no other recourse than to ignore (or perhaps flag) the cursing, name calling or base variety of Troll, but for me the majority of Trolls have been (albeit sometimes just barely) a step above these bottom feeder types. Most can be made to realize that A – you actually read the comments so perhaps they should consider that when typing, and B – that you’re a human too. Sometimes, I’ve actually been able to turn a Troll. Magic!
This sort of victory is sweet. However, despite your best efforts, some of the virtual critics simply cannot be swayed. They just plain don’t like you and your work. *Sigh*
So, what do you do? You take a moment and let yourself know it’s okay and natural that you’re hurt by the comment. Then, you pull it together. Realize that if everyone loved your work, you’d be doing something wrong. It wouldn’t be art. That Troll isn’t who you were making your art for. All those other people who shared it, praised it, smiled or teared up at the sight or sound of it? THEY’RE who you’re working so hard for, and one of them is worth a thousand Trolls. The feeling it gave you making it? THAT’S why you do what you do.
Next, decide to reach even more of the good ones, lift your craft to the next level, prove the haters wrong. Put your energies there and refuse to give another ounce to the Negative Nancy (who we all know now looks like Picknose). Be grateful to the Troll, they will help raise your bar. Plus, there’s nothing they hate more than your gratitude.