The Poop Clouds
You know the worst thing about a negative comment? It's not that it puts a poop cloud over your otherwise good day. It's not even that it deflates your ego or cranks the heat under your simmering rage.
And, to be clear, I'm not talking about criticism here.Criticism is an important tool. It can help you become a healthier human being...although, so can a scalpel, so bear in mind that criticism should always be wielded with care.
A negative comment isn't criticism. It's a passing remark, something offhand. I'm assuming that the mouth/fingers it's emerging from have some kind of complex. Likely compensating for something.
The worst thing about a negative comment is that it sticks with you. It's like that poop cloud dropped an invisible turd in your hair, and every time you turn your head, you catch a whiff. Not just invisible. It's an indestructible invisible turd. No amount of positive comments can wash it out.
I mean, don't get me wrong. Positive comments are always awesome. They help keep you looking on the bright side. They make you a better person, because they make you feel good and kindness is contagious. But the fact is you've still got an indestructible invisible turd in your hair and there just isn't any ignoring that.
At this point, you might be wondering what happened to me. Did someone scream that they hated my book from a moving car? Did they tell me my voice is too girly or that my face was decidedly 'average'? Did they shave my head whilst I old-cat-napped on a doorstep? Shit in my Wheaties? Shave my dog's ass and teach him to walk backwards?
No. That's the thing with negative comments. They don't have to be about anything big, and they don't have to be aggressive. They can be offhanded noises made by a disinterested person. That might be the second-worst part.
So here's the story. I'm sitting in the park this summer, during the Farmer's Market. It's a beautiful, sun-shiny day and I've been selling/discussing my book with customers. I'm happy, and I'm sketching characters from my book. Finishing one, I set it next to the color ones on the front of my table. I think she looks pretty good. I mean, I'm pulling an image out of my brain, one that only I have seen, and trying to translate it onto paper. It's not grand, nothing fancy, but it's mine. And, for what it's worth, she makes me think of the character (Harry, for those of you who've read Firebird) and I couldn't ask for anything more than that.
A guy wanders over, having finished rather loudly browsing the wooden spoons booth across from me. He starts looking at my books, and I quit sketching, excited to talk about writing and art.
He asks a couple of questions, thumbing through my drawings. I'm a little leery, because instead of being curious about my book or art style or anything to do with what I'm doing, he's commenting on which one looks the most like an 'angry little boy' (they're all women). He mentions the wooden spoons, and we talk about them for a while, because yes--they're very beautiful, hand-carved spoons. I start to say that I bought one, but he interrupts me.
The man picks up the picture I just finished of Harry. He snorts, turns it around to face me (in case I'd forgotten what this picture I've been working on for the last three hours looks like) and says:
"What happened to this one? She looks like she just got smacked in the face with one of those wooden spoons over there!"
Now I was going for sassy/snarky/about to tell someone to piss off. And I thought that I'd gotten it. But now, every time I see this picture, all that I can think is, "ole spoon face."
And it's funny. It is. She sort of does look like she just got smacked in the face with one of those wooden spoons.
Two guesses who else looked like she'd just gotten smacked in the face by a wooden spoon.
The thing is, that comment didn't have to happen. I'd still see snarky/sassy/piss off. And you'd probably still be thinking whatever you may or may not have thought before I told you this. But now, you and me both, we're seeing a wooden spoon.
And it pisses me off. It bothers me that he couldn't think of a single kind thing to say. More than that. It bothers me that he couldn't say anything interesting. And it bothers me that he "doesn't like to read". It's one thing to not like to read. It's another thing to not like to read and assume that makes you better than all of the book-loving-idiots out there.
But what bothers me the most is that this boorish person has the power to filter my vision of my gory damn character.
So, Spoon Man. I'm not going to stop doing events. I'm not going to stop writing and I'm not going to stop drawing. These things are who I am, and I am always looking to make myself better. Inside and out, Spoon Man. Inside and out.
And why did I feel the need to share the Spoon Man's story? Well, I suppose because I just looked at my Facebook profile, saw Harry's picture, and felt that old flame of impudent rage. More than that, I sort of wanted someone else to see the spoon face. Because if I were to break someone's nose with a spoon, this is what I'd picture it looking like.
And I really don't want to be united with Spoon Man in being the only two people in the world who'd think that. Now everyone knows your story Spoon Man. Maybe if you were a more interesting human, it would be a more interesting story.