Six Types of People Who Insult Your Writing (And What To Do About It)

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First, a reminder about those who upset you with callous comments:

I haven’t always realized this truth. The first time I got published in CNBC, I had 50 comments congratulating and praising me. I had one comment which said it was “boring.” Guess which comment I remembered?

It went the same way that time I wrote a single Quora answer which rocketed to half a million views in the matter of a few days. That post makes up for 1/5 of my total views on the platform! One person said this:

The one that hurts most still sits at the top of my Amazon reviews. If you scroll down past the book (which almost always has that shiny orange bestseller tag), you’ll see this:


Over my 10 years of writing professionally, I’ve seen it all. My writing has been called everything from clumsy to cheesy to white-privilege bulls**t. Some people call me a pessimist for the same article another will thank me for writing.

When you expose yourself as a writer, opinions will rain down.

Unfortunately, like my granny used to say, “opinions are like butts. Everybody has one. Most of them are not worth seeing.”

Here is a guide to navigating some of the butts you’ll see in your career.

Spoiler alert: Some of them are worth looking at.

The Troll:

Helps improve nothing and offers destructive opinions only.

When Jeff-From-The-Internet-With-No-Profile-Picture puts in his 2 cents, return the change and flush the words from your brain.

This person is not worth listening to.

Your Writer Friend:

Helps improve your work through the lens of their own work.

Your writer friend is not an editor. This person may or may not be trained in coaching, editing, or teaching other people how to write.

This person is maybe worth listening to.

Your Non-Writer Friend:

Helps improve your life by contributing to your general well being (in theory).

This person will likely tell you one of two things about your work:

  • “I’m sure this was good but it isn’t what I like to read.”
  • “This is awesome, man!”

In either case, their response is dictated by their relationship with you and their own personal tastes.

This person is not worth listening to (about your writing).

The Cynic:

Helps improve nothing and may be a little sad.

A cynic is not a troll. When Cynic Harry points out he was not moved by your writing, it is not a personal indictment. He has either seen this information before (which is fine), or been let down by life too often to believe in anything.

This person is not worth listening to.

The Critic:

Helps improve the medium at large by commenting after release.

A critic is not a cynic (usually). He can be cynical. Ultimately, though, a critic just wants better. This is not a crime.

When Roger Ebert poked holes in the plot of a movie, the next generation of screenwriters thought “oops, I better not do that.” His taste, if not his contributions to the field itself, moved all of cinema forward.

This person is worth listening to, but probably not about your own work.

The Editor:

Helps improve your work before release.

The editor is not a critic. She is critical. When Editor Mary reads through the 1,500 words you wrote for Chapter 3, she might say something like “yeah, this section sucks.”

Guess what they mean by this?

They don’t mean “you suck.”

They don’t mean “give up writing.”

They do mean “this section sucks. I believe you can be better than this.”

At long last, this person is worth listening to.

Writing culture is toxic in that we imply it is a solitary career. This is misleading — You can allow voices to influence your work.

Just make sure they are the right ones.

Much love as always ❤

— Todd B

One time I self-published a book that made over $5,000 in 7 days.

Here are the exact emails I sent to make that happen.

Written by

An optimist who writes.

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