Make anything and put it out for public display and you’ll attract criticism. You’ll attract praise as well, of course, but no matter what you do there will be people who don’t like what you’re doing. Some will keep it to themselves, and some will tell you what they think. Of those that tell you, some will be polite with their suggestions, and some will be confrontational.
The more you make, the more critics you encounter and the more likely it is that one of them will be of the confrontational sort. They may email you curt critiques or detailed essays about what you should change, or they may comment in a public space like on a blog post, Twitter or Facebook. Some of these critics you can surely dismiss, but I guarantee they’ll be at least one that makes you feel angry, or ashamed, or like a fraud. Something about what they’re saying really gets to you and triggers your deepest insecurities.
What do you do next? The gut reaction is to start searching through whatever they’ve created to find flaws in it. First we want to critique the critic. Later when we’ve processed their words more fully (by rereading their emails 100 times) we remind ourselves that what we’re doing is good work, and hopefully we move past this incident with our spirit and our drive intact.
We might then respond directly to the critic, or keep our thoughts to ourselves, but from then on that person may end up becoming our crafty internet nemesis. What’s that? It’s a crafter you love to hate. I think you’re not being honest if right now you’re thinking, “I don’t have an internet nemesis.” I’ve got one and I’m betting you do, too.
Here’s what you end up doing when you have an internet nemesis. You frequently lurk around on her site, reading her blog posts. You check her Etsy shop to see how many items she’s sold this week. You know how many 3 star reviews her book got on Amazon. You’ve looked up her stats on Quantcast (What’s Quantcast? It’s a handy site where you can see analytics for websites. Look at you! You’re heading over there now. Right after you check your own stats, you’re going to put your nemesis’ blog in there and see what comes up. I know. I did that, too, when I discovered it.). Each time you do this, you feel a bit of that initial pain again. It’s like scratching a bug bite until it bleeds.
How does this happen and why is it so widespread? I think there are a few reasons. First, craft bloggers are primarily women. We’re socialized to be positive or be quiet. Girls should be nice. When someone breaks that rule we feel the sting more strongly than men who may be used to being confronted more directly by one another, especially in business.
We get caught up in internet jealousy. The race for more followers, more sales, more deals, more sponsors, makes us feel that what we have is not enough. Insecurity creeps in. Maybe I’m not getting opportunities because I’m not good enough. When the critic pipes up she becomes an easy target. Why is she getting more than me?
And the internet makes it so easy to spy. She’ll never know I was looking at her numbers or reading her posts or her tweets. It’s important to keep on top of the competition, right?
So here’s my question. What effect does this antagonistic relationship have on our well-being as creative people? I feel it in two ways. On the one hand, it makes me work harder. I strive to do more, and do better, to show her (and myself, right?) that I’m the real deal. My nemesis is motivating me to reach further. On the other hand, I can’t even begin to add up the time I’ve spent lurking, and fretting, and lurking some more. My nemesis is stepping on me.
I don’t want to be motivated by antagonism or jealousy or insecurity. And I don’t need to be. This year I’m working to set myself free from my internet nemesis (it’s been 8 years!). I’m confident that I can. Without that negativity, I’ll be a better person, a better blogger, and a better businesswoman.
Tell me your nemesis story, because I know you’ve got one. No naming names, of course, but how is she effecting you? And are you with me in making an effort to let go?