I went to Homer, Alaska during breakup season, the time of year when the ice splits apart and things start to thaw. Breakup season, people warned me again and again prior to my arrival, is ugly. Sometimes it snows, sometimes it rains, but it’s always wet. Breakup season is all brown and gray in a state that’s usually crisp whites and blues and greens.
But everyone, it turns out, is kind of excited about breakup season. They don’t compare the muddy thaw to summer, which is by then a distant memory, but to the winter they’ve just weathered. “Boy, it was a long one,” said Mike, the coffee shop owner from Corpus Christi who had a smoker’s rasp and stick-and-poke hand tats and a single diamond stud in his ear. “So breakup season ain’t so bad.” I get this. Breakups have always been good to me, marked by a sense of possibility rather than by a bleak sense of ending. On my first night in town, I made some friends at a restaurant on Highway 1, and one of them offered to take me out on his fishing boat the next day. We stopped by a tackle shop on the dock and I paid $30 for a license to fish for wild king salmon. (“You’ll have good luck today,” the gray-bearded owner said. “Women’s always good luck on the boat.”) I didn’t catch any kings, but I did snag two halibut and a sea bass. I felt a lot tougher about this fact before I watched a video of myself shrieking and giggling as I reeled in the tiniest halibut.
Anyway. If you ever have a chance to go longline fishing on a cerulean bay ringed with glacial peaks, I recommend it. Admittedly, scoring such an invitation from a stranger will be easier if you are a woman. The lady shortage up here is for real. But, the fisherman told me, breakups aren’t so bad. “In Homer you don’t lose your girlfriend, you just lose your turn.”
"Even doing proofs is painful, so you don’t want to revisit the thing. I mean, readers are always disappointed when you talk about your work. You have to say to them, ‘Look, you’re talking about work you may love … I’m talking about work that I loathe …’ It’s nothing to do with me any more. Really, it has nothing to do with me. I looked through The Sea, and there is the odd sentence that I think, ‘Well, that’s quite nice.’ I can’t say in all honesty that it’s as if it was written by somebody else, but it was written by a different version of myself, and in a way, it’s more radical, because the selves we leave behind are more strange to us than strangers."
This is so real.
Working from my parents’ kitchen today.
"But whereas being a female reporter was once synonymous with tenacity, superior intellect, and wit, today’s fictional female reporter serves as shorthand for new media reporter/blogger: young, naïve, and morally bankrupt."
My dear friend Jen Miz appears in this wonderfully GIFtastic video!
In my ongoing quest for the perfect framework for understanding haters, I created The Disapproval Matrix**. (With a deep bow to its inspiration.) This is one way to separate haterade from productive feedback. Here’s how the quadrants break down:
Critics: These are smart people who know something about your field. They are taking a hard look at your work and are not loving it. You’ll probably want to listen to what they have to say, and make some adjustments to your work based on their thoughtful comments.
Lovers: These people are invested in you and are also giving you negative but rational feedback because they want you to improve. Listen to them, too.
Frenemies: Ooooh, this quadrant is tricky. These people really know how to hurt you, because they know you personally or know your work pretty well. But at the end of the day, their criticism is not actually about your work—it’s about you personally. And they aren’t actually interested in a productive conversation that will result in you becoming better at what you do. They just wanna undermine you. Dishonorable mention goes to The Hater Within, aka the irrational voice inside you that says you suck, which usually falls into this quadrant. Tell all of these fools to sit down and shut up.
Haters: This is your garden-variety, often anonymous troll who wants to tear down everything about you for no rational reason. Folks in this quadrant are easy to write off because they’re counterproductive and you don’t even know them. Ignore! Engaging won’t make you any better at what you do. And then rest easy, because having haters is proof your work is finding a wide audience and is sparking conversation. Own it.
The general rule of thumb? When you receive negative feedback that falls into one of the top two quadrants—from experts or people who care about you who are engaging with and rationally critiquing your work—you should probably take their comments to heart. When you receive negative feedback that falls into the bottom two quadrants, you should just let it roll off your back and just keep doin’ you. If you need to amp yourself up about it, may I suggest this #BYEHATER playlist on Spotify? You’re welcome.
** I presented The Disapproval Matrix to the fine folks at MoxieCon in Chicago yesterday, and they seemed to find it useful, so I figured I’d share with the class. It was originally inspired by a question my friend Channing Kennedy submitted to my #Realtalk column at the Columbia Journalism Review.
“So my first piece of advice is get another woman in the room. And my second is demand respect. You should get it. You don’t have to be a man to get it. You don’t have to be a flirt to get it. Just be yourself and if it’s not working for some reason, just say so.” TOTES.
“I have to say, 14 years later, it’s still a pretty useful list of phony-baloney vocabulary that editors are well-advised to excise from stories.”