I became a full-time writer 17 years ago.
While covering consumer technology and video games as a twenty-something blogger, I would regularly receive hate mail from fanboys (never girls) who disagreed with my reporting.
I even received several death threats on occasion. While I never took these threats seriously, it never feels good to have your life, family, or property threatened.
After leaving video games in the late aughts, the hate mail mostly stopped. But I still get upset emails sometimes.
A few years a go, a man berated me for an article I wrote for CNN that was missing a comma. “You have no credibility,” the anonymous man concluded. “If you can’t master simple grammar, you have no business writing.”
He’s not the only one who has questioned my continued mistakes, two books, and thousands of published articles. In fact, the hate mail I’ve received far outweighs the fan mail—which is not unlike sustained rejection in general.
Sometimes I get gentle reminders like, “Hey Blake, I read your latest article and enjoyed it, but you misspelled such and such word.” I always thank these people for keeping me honest. I ignore and delete the rest.
Other times I get confusing emails written by old men or aspiring writers that use no punctuation or capitalization, making it near impossible to decipher. I delete these too.
Every once in a while, I’ll get a beautiful, heartwarming letter like this one. People from all over the world (even Antarctica once), telling me how much they enjoyed my latest article, book, comment, song, or creation. Some of them share how my work has helped them or even changed their life in rare instances.
These are the kinds of letters I live for. They validate my efforts and power me through the hate mail. Like the several I received last week after publishing my story on Kansas City barbecue. I didn’t get a single letter complimenting my article, but I received half of dozen letters from very angry men.
One of them told me to F-off because I “obviously don’t know sh!t about barbecue.” I had no idea KC barbecue was such as hot topic.
What has all of this hate mail taught me? Two things. The first is thick skin. Hate mail reminds me to shrug off the haters. But it’s also a reminder that I’m still creating new things. Which I love doing.
If that’s the price I have to pay to put new things into the world, so be it. I’ve paid a lot more for far less fulfilling things.
PS—If you’ve enjoyed anything I’ve written in the past, anything at all, please say so. Similarly, if there’s anything someone else has created that you enjoy, tell them. It really does make the world a better place, and helps the creators beat the haters.